Yes, as stipulated by Congress, the legislation designates several areas of construction where deployment of ESSER funds is allowed. This is the biggest misconception we’re seeing across the country, and we encourage SEAs to provide clearer guidance.
In Subtitle A, Part 1, Section 2001 of the American Rescue Plan Act, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund was established. Language (Section 2001(e)(2)) from that legislation that provides support for building renovation is repeated below:
(O) School facility repairs and improvements to enable operation of schools to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards, and to support student health needs.
(P) Inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement.
(Q) Developing strategies and implementing public health protocols including, to the greatest extent practicable policies in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff.
(R) Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency.
To further support that construction is allowed, the agreements signed by each state include references to OMB Standard Form 424D (Assurances for Construction Programs) lending assurance that construction is expected in the use of these funds. ESCOs should be aware that the use of ESSER funds may trigger Davis-Bacon and Buy American requirements and reporting requirements on the use of the funds.