Governor's Education Emergency Relief Fund
The Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund was created and supplied with nearly $3 billion by the federal CARES Act, of which Connecticut received $27.8 million for the purpose of ensuring continuing educational opportunities for students of all ages affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Governor’s Office and Office of Policy and Management received many requests from around the state for GEER funding. When reviewing these requests, special attention was given to initiatives which responded to the impact of COVID that were not fully addressed through other funding sources in the CARES Act. Upon review, it was revealed there were significant gaps in access to remote learning technology for teachers and families across the state, including devices and internet connectivity, that could be addressed with GEER funding. When discussing potential allocations of GEER funds, the state gave weight to the public health and economic factors needed to safely continue education at all levels in a pandemic environment, including increased capacity for remote learning and equitable access to education services across the state.
Connecticut will be apportioning the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund as follows:
- $15 million will be allocated to State Department of Education (SDE) to provide devices and internet connectivity to teachers and students where either local education agencies or families are unable to provide a device, ensuring equitable access to remote learning. This portion of GEER funds is intended to target lower-income areas with identified gaps in remote learning access and ensure that the neediest students and teachers in Connecticut have equal access to remote learning.
- $4 million will be provided to the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) to help families access high-quality remote learning platforms for early childhood education, addressing connectivity gaps identified by OEC as early childhood educators operate at reduced capacity and families that may be required to continue early childhood education from home. OEC will distribute these funds in a manner that targets areas of the state where families with health risks are concerned about safely returning their children to daycare or where classrooms are operating at reduced capacity to facilitate safe physical distancing. This funding will also serve populations with limited or no access to remote learning technology, addressing the same socioeconomic barriers to education that are the focus for SDE’s program.
- $6.9 million will be awarded to the Office of Higher Education (OHE) to provide need-based scholarships to students to attend Connecticut institutions of higher education. The scholarships will be awarded based on the same eligibility criteria and formula as the needs-based grants awarded through the state’s Roberta Willis Scholarship program. The Roberta Willis Scholarship is distributed by the Office of Higher Education (OHE) to public and non-profit institutions of higher education in Connecticut according to a statutory formula. Funding is directed toward students with the greatest need for financial aid as indicated by the Expected Family Contribution calculated in students’ Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The $33.4 million Roberta Willis Scholarship state appropriation in SFY 2021 is expected to serve over 9,000 students. These supplemental GEER funds will enable the State to fund additional need-based scholarships for additional students at Connecticut institutions of higher education.
- $2 million will be provided to public institutions of higher education, including UConn and all state universities and community colleges within the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system, for improved classroom technology to better accommodate remote learning. This funding is intended to stabilize tuition revenues impacted by the pandemic, which will assist with the continued viability of the institution and ensure that affordable options are available for residents seeking a two- or four-year degree, certificate, or skills training for various opportunities to join or re-join Connecticut’s workforce.
The CARES Act (Public Act 116-136) authorizes the federal Department of Education to reserve about $3 billion for the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund. Section 18002(b) of the CARES Act requires the Department to allocate 60 percent of funds reserved for the GEER Fund based on each State’s relative population of individuals aged 5 through 24 and 40 percent based on each State’s relative number of children counted under section 1124(c) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (i.e., children counted for the purposes of making Title I, Part A formula grants to local educational agencies, or the Title I, Part A formula count).The Department used the most recent data available for both elements of this formula to determine GEER Fund allocations to States: (1) the 2018 State-level ages 5 to 24 resident population data that the U.S. Census Bureau released in June, 2019, and(2) the Title I, Part A formula count from the fiscal year 2020 preliminary Title I, Part A allocations that the Department provided to Congress on January 22, 2020, and to States on January 23, 2020.