Education Department completes distribution of $122 billion in school Covid-19 relief funding to states

The US Department of Education has distributed all $122 billion in school Covid-19 relief funding to states.

By Liz Stark, CNN

(CNN) -- The US Department of Education has distributed all $122 billion in school Covid-19 relief funding from the American Rescue Plan to states, the Biden administration announced Tuesday -- a major milestone as school districts nationwide continue to grapple with Omicron's surge.

The Biden administration last March announced the allocation of more than $122 billion for schools from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, with two-thirds of those funds -- totaling $81 billion -- "made available to states immediately." The remaining federal dollars were contingent on the approval of a state plan detailing how the funds would be used, the Education Department noted at the time.

RELATED: As schools battle Omicron, billions of federal relief dollars remain unspent

With the final state education agency's plan approved recently, the department said Tuesday it has now distributed all $122 billion of the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona described the announcement as "an important milestone."

"I am proud that, with the approval of these plans, states have 100% of their funds and robust plans to help schools remain open and help students thrive," he said.

This comes as the Biden administration has continued to urge school districts to take certain safety measures to ensure classrooms remain open for in-person instruction in the second half of the school year. The education secretary has also emphasized that schools should prioritize in-person learning, with proper mitigation and testing strategies in place to protect students and staff.

"We are urging states and school districts to deploy funds now to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Omicron variant, on our school communities. We continue to encourage state and local education leaders to utilize funds for testing, personal protective equipment, and staff recruitment and retention," said Cardona in Tuesday's statement.

"In areas where these funds are being deployed quickly, we are already seeing the positive impact that this infusion of federal support is having directly in schools and communities. We know what it takes to keep our schools open safely for in-person learning, and these funds will help us achieve that goal," he said.

The approved state plans -- which are posted on the department's website -- detail a variety of Covid-19 safety measures and initiatives that school districts across the country are implementing with the federal dollars. Highlights include improvements to ventilation systems, additional education staff and new academic programs to address learning loss during the pandemic.

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