RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that all schools in the Commonwealth will receive $66.8 million through the federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to expand distance learning opportunities, fund services for students disproportionately impacted by loss of class time, and provide financial assistance to higher education students and institutions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This funding will help Virginia provide high-quality instruction and continue the delivery of services for K-12 and higher education students during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the governor. “We are prioritizing this federal assistance to help address learning gaps caused by school closures, expand and improve internet connectivity, increase access to robust distance learning programs, and help students in need of additional financial assistance complete their postsecondary education and training.”
The GEER Fund, which was authorized under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, gives states the flexibility determine how best to allocate the emergency assistance to meet their educational needs.
Gov. Northam is distributing $43.4 million in GEER funding for the following Pre-K-12 priorities:
- $26.9 million to support short-term and long-term initiatives expanding high-speed internet access to all communities in the Commonwealth, including providing laptop computers and Mi-Fi devices for students without home internet access;
- $10 million to expand early childhood education and child care programs in the Commonwealth, especially for children with academic and social-emotional needs;
- $3.5 million to support the expansion of the Virtual Virginia online learning program to provide content for elementary and middle school students; allow teachers in all school divisions to use the platform to create, edit, and share content as well as provide personalized virtual instruction for all students; and expand the Virtual Virginia Professional Learning Network, in partnership with the Virginia Society for Technology, to ensure that educators and technology-support personnel have the capacity and skills to meet the demand for quality online learning; and
- $3 million to cover unfunded costs for the continuation of school-based meals programs while schools remain closed, including hazard pay for school nutrition staff.
“These initiatives will support efforts of PreK-12 schools to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable students and increase the capacity of local divisions to continue instruction and critical support services during future emergencies,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “We will also allocate flexible funding to our institutions of higher education that will allow colleges and universities to address the unique needs of their students. We trust they will maintain a focus on equity by distributing funds and services to students who are facing monumental challenges due to the pandemic.”
Approximately $23.4 million—one third of GEER funds—will be distributed throughout Virginia’s higher education system, with $18.3 million allocated to public and private four-year institutions and Richard Bland College. Of this funding, $14.5 million will be allocated to four-year public institutions and Richard Bland College, and $3.8 million will be allocated to private, four-year Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) eligible institutions. All of these institutions will use the one-time funding to address immediate student financial needs, cover health and safety costs associated with COVID-19, and support activities that make online learning more accessible and equitable.
GEER funds totaling $4.9 million will be distributed to the Virginia Community College System to support the following initiatives:
- One-time funding to address immediate student financial needs;
- Last-dollar scholarships for displaced adults who enroll in stackable credential programs leading to jobs in targeted industry sectors; and
- Initiatives to extend internet access into parking lots on or adjacent to the 40 campuses to provide help connect students who do not have internet subscriptions at home.
The governor will also distribute $175,000 of GEER funds among Virginia’s five higher education centers, which provide access to college degrees and job training for in-demand careers located in parts of the Commonwealth with fewer college and university resources.
GEER funding has been made available in addition to $587.5 million allocated to the Commonwealth in May under the federal CARES Act. This included $238.6 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief (ESSER) Fund for K-12 activities. Additionally, the CARES Act provided $343.9 million for higher education through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
In addition to allocating funding directly to every local school division, the ESSER K-12 funding includes a $23.9 million state set aside to fund state-level initiatives. In Virginia, these funds will be used to meet the needs of schools in regard to special education, instruction and assessment, student social and emotional health, and COVID-19-related health and safety in school buildings and facilities.
More information on the ESSER state set aside funds will be made available through the Virginia Department of Education in the coming weeks.