As many of you may have seen or heard, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released final regulations for the EANS program authorized by the American Rescue Plan (EANS II). These final regulations follow a period of public comment on key questions for ARP EANS, including what a significant percentage of low-income students means.
There are two notable changes from the first version of EANS authorized by CRRSA. The first is that reimbursements are no longer permitted. The second is that the eligibility of private schools was changed from all private schools with priority to those that served low-income students and were most impacted by COVID-19 to private schools that enroll a significant percentage of low-income private school students and are most impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. The final regulations address in detail this second change in EANS II from EANS I.
First, a bit of review for CRRSA EANS (EANS I)—
- Governors were required to apply for EANS I by February 8, 2021 (although this deadline was extended by ED to February 22). Awards were made by ED within 15 days of receiving the application (although most awards were made within one day).
- The SEA was required to make the application available to private schools within 30 days of receiving the funds from ED. The SEA had latitude as to when the applications from private schools were due back to the SEA, but it was generally 30 days. The application from the private school needed to be denied or approved by the SEA within 30 days of receiving the application.
- Funds must be obligated within 6 months of the date the SEA received them but can be expended through September 30, 2022.
- Private schools that participated in the second round of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), receiving funds on or after December 27, 2020 are ineligible to participate in EANS.
Second, here are the details from the final regulations for ARP EANS—
- State applications must be submitted to ED between July 9 and September 9. As with CRRSA EANS, ED must distribute funds within 15 days of receipt of the state application. Once the funds have been received, the SEA has 30 days to release its application to private schools. SEAs have flexibility as to when the ARP EANS applications are due from the private schools but must approve or deny each application within 30 days of receipt. Funds must be obligated within 6 months and can be expended through September 30, 2023.
- The final regulations list only two differences (no reimbursement and enrolling a significant percentage of low-income students) between CRRSA EANS and ARP EANS. This presumably means that ARP EANS includes the prohibition against a private school receiving both EANS funding and the second round of PPP funding (on or after December 27, 2020), but private school leadership groups are attempting to get clarity around whether this restriction applies to ARP EANS.
- To be eligible for ARP EANS, a private school must meet the definition of enrolling a significant percentage of low-income students AND must be most impacted by the COVID-19 emergency.
- To qualify as low income, a private school enrollment must be at least 40% of students who meet the definition of low income (185% of poverty), or an alternative significant percentage proposed by the State and approved by ED in the state’s application.
- To obtain low-income data, States can use private school data from free and reduced-price lunch, E-rate, scholarship information, a survey, or a combination of these options, provided the options used consistently benchmark the same definition of low-income.
- To qualify as impacted by COVID-19, factors can include the number of community infections, the number of community deaths, impact of lost instructional time, economic impact of COVID-19 on the community, or other factors the State chooses and obtains approval for in its application.
- ED announced that it would be releasing additional FAQs at a future date.
The final regulations may have the effect of limiting the number of private schools that can receive ARP EANS assistance. Be sure to watch how your state proceeds—the content of its application to ED can define a different threshold for poverty if the state chooses and will define what it means to be impacted by COVID-19.