ESSER Funds logo, promises funds for improvements to elementary and secondary schools.

ESSER Funds: Little-Known Federal Funding for Improving School IAQ

Your school or district could have federal assistance funds sitting around unused, waiting for you to make use of them. They could be the long-awaited solution to your indoor air quality (IAQ) problem. ESSER funds could be the solution to that problem.

Schools and school districts face a continued need to address IAQ in their facilities. Many buildings are aging and may be contending with inefficient air handling systems or contaminants like mold and mildew. On the other end of the spectrum are newer school buildings that are practically hermetically sealed! Their windows don’t open, making natural air exchange impossible.

Whatever factors a particular school or building may be facing, the need for better IAQ has never been starker thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing effects. But this virus has moved the federal government to provide help.

For the current season, funding need not be the challenge it usually is to schools in the USA. The AirBox team has helped numerous schools and districts overcome budgeting challenges by accessing ESSER funds.

 

ESSER Funding Sources Explained

ESSER funding can be complicated to access because the term itself is a bit of a misnomer: “ESSER funding” comes from three separate funds, one from each of the major COVID-related relief acts.

Here’s a little information about each.

ESSER I

According to the Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), Congress allocated a significant slice of the March 2020 CARES act—just over $13 billion—for an education-specific fund named the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). The money in this fund was then allocated as grants to state educational agencies, which were directed to provide emergency relief funds to local schools and school districts.

This money was designed to address and mitigate the many impacts of COVID-19—including indoor air quality improvement efforts.

ESSER II

As we’re all too aware by now, the effects of the pandemic lasted far beyond what was hoped back in March 2020. Those ongoing effects led to the larger 2021 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), which included further ESSER funds (sometimes denoted ESSER II). These ESSER II funds were distributed to states at levels proportional to other Title I funds.

ARP ESSER Funds

Just a few months later, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) was passed. This third and, so far, final act allocated another $122 billion to education agencies to help schools reopen safely and fully, and address the pandemic’s impact on students. These funds received the same proportional distribution.

Federal Funding Hurdles

Across three rounds of ESSER funds, there’s a staggering amount of funding available to schools and districts concerned with improving IAQ. (And we haven’t even touched on additional non-ESSER funding streams.)

Still, education professionals face hurdles to accessing these funds.

Lack of Clarity on Access to Funds

First, there’s a lack of clarity on how to access the money. Because they were distributed to state agencies (as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico), there are 52 different entities overseeing the funds. Procedures vary from state to state, creating a complex landscape that’s difficult for educators and administrators to navigate.

Lack of Understanding on Optimal Allocation

Once funds become available at the district and school level, there’s still the question of what to do with the funds. Some schools are addressing IAQ by scheduling more outdoor time, including outdoor learning sessions.

Not only that, the market is full of products from companies that rushed to fill the pandemic void. Many of these claim to sanitize the air, but they lack certification or use unproven technology such as ionization or UV sterilization.

AirBox: The Ideal Use for ESSER Funds

In contrast, AirBox has been delivering safe air solutions using proven technology since well before the pandemic began. And AirBox’s line of high-quality industrial air purifiers are built on safe air science, not marketing hype.

Our products function beautifully and simply in school settings, helping staff, students, and visitors alike breathe easier. Most of our air purifiers can be installed directly in classrooms and spaces, with no need to access ductwork.

Best of all, AirBox air purifiers use certified HEPA technology, one of the CDC’s top-line recommendations for improving ventilation and mitigating airborne contaminants. Our products are a prime-use case for ESSER funds: they’re third-party tested to remove greater than 99.99% of airborne contaminants, including RNA viruses like COVID.

AirBox Can Help School Districts Access and Allocate Federal Funds

ESSER funds are a severely underutilized and untapped pool of money, but far too many districts either don’t know about the funding source or aren’t sure how to properly access and allocate it.

AirBox CEO Meredith Teague is passionate about educating schools and school districts and helping them unlock the funds that are already in place, ripe and ready for the taking. She’s already helped countless schools and districts realize the immense benefits that are within reach once they gain access to ESSER funding.

Meredith and the rest of our team are equally passionate about providing a safe air solution to schools across the country. AirBox air purifiers deliver reliably safe, clean air throughout school facilities, and you can rest assured that every space is properly covered thanks to our customized Safe Air Plan, built out individually for every school and district.

If you’re ready to learn more about utilizing ESSER funding as well as other sources of federal funding for improving indoor air quality in your school district, reach out to our team now.