Schools are struggling to spend their federal COVID dollars fast enough – Michigan Capitol Confidential

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West Michigan school district lobbyist says they need more time

A group representing the Michigan School District wants more time to spend the COVID windfall that schools have received.

Michigan schools have received $6 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds as of April 15, and at least 78% of that amount has gone unspent. It’s $4.64 billion. The money came in three separate categories, each with its own deadline for how quickly it must be spent. Some school districts are struggling to spend it fast enough and have asked federal authorities to grant an extension.

Education Advocates in West Michigan, an advocacy group of 43 school districts, asked Michigan members congress delegation to extend the deadline for a tranche of money until 2026. The group cites construction delays and says more time will allow schools to avoid some rising costs. Some of the money is specifically earmarked for improving schools’ heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Another category of expenses is called “Repairs and improvements to school facilities to reduce the risk of virus transmission”.

The first pot of federal COVID money awarded to Michigan public schools contained $350.4 million, which must be spent by September 30. Almost everything – 94% – has been spent. The second pot contains $1.49 billion, with a spending deadline of September 30, 2023; schools spent 33%.

The third pot contains $3.71 billion and must be spent by September 30, 2024. Only 2% of that money has been spent. Federal law requires districts to submit a detailed spending plan to the Michigan Department of Education showing how they will use it. At least 20% of the money must be used to mitigate learning losses resulting from the closure of classrooms during the pandemic.

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