(The Center Square) – Iowa will award $8.6 million in reimbursement grants to 64 of 130 school districts that applied for funding of mental health support services for students and families, Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education announced Tuesday.
The funds come from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER II), which is part of the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act that was passed in December 2020.
“As we prepare for a new school year it is important to remember that what happens outside of the classroom has a substantial impact on students in the classroom,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said in the news release announcing the grant awards. “These additional resources will help schools expand services to address growing social-emotional-behavioral health needs and support the overall well-being of students, including youth mental health first aid training and implementation, suicide prevention services and other programming.”
The release said funding “will be distributed equitably across awardees based on district-certified enrollment for [the] 2020-21 school year unless an applicant requested a different amount.”
Davenport, Dubuque and Iowa City school districts each received $650,000, which was the greatest grant amount distributed to school districts. The smallest grant, $2,087, went to Cedar Falls. Most schools that receive grants received $100,000, and the median of the awards was $84,000.
Applicants had to demonstrate “unique student and family mental health needs” related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicant districts that proposed providing direct mental health services to students and families received priority, the release said.
“We have to look at the whole health of every child and supporting the mental health of Iowa children and families is a top priority of mine,” Reynolds said. “This investment is not only about adapting to the challenges we face today, but it will help schools expand support systems to secure better outcomes moving forward.”
Unsuccessful grantees may file appeals in writing up until ten business days from Tuesday’s announcement, under state law. They must briefly state why they are appealing, and their appeal “must be based on a contention that the process was conducted outside of statutory authority; violated state or federal law, policy, or rule; did not provide adequate public notice; was altered without adequate public notice; or involved conflict of interest by staff or committee members.”
Funds may be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020, the date the national emergency was declared regarding COVID-19, and recipients must use the money by Sept. 30, 2023, according to a fact sheet on the funds.
Each state received funding that governors can distribute to local education agencies and colleges “within their jurisdiction that have been ‘most significantly impacted by coronavirus’ to support their ability to continue providing educational services to their students to support the ‘on-going functionality.’’ Governors can also use the funds to support education entities they believe are essential for emergency educational services, child care and early childhood education, social and emotional support and providing education-related jobs.
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act provided $4.1 billion to all states through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which reserved $2.75 billion for nonpublic schools and $1.3 billion to states to supplement Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds.
To report any misuse or abuse of CARES Act Funding, file a complaint online with the Inspector General or call the OIG Hotline at 800-647-8733.