By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday announced that the State of Connecticut is allocating an additional $160 million in funding for school districts to safely reopen.
These relief funds add to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) of $15 million and $111 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds which has brought total funding to 266 million for more than 160 school districts.
Gov. Lamont said that the funding is essential for ensuring schools safely re-open for students.
“These grants are an essential component to providing the best possible educational opportunities during this uncertain time,” Lamont said, in a press conference.
Lamont also said that these new funds will help needy families who are in struggling neighborhoods.
“Through this program, we are going to be able to offer devices, platforms, and internet connectivity to help with distance learning in lower income areas for students just beginning their education through college and graduate school,” Lamont said. “It also helps to increase access to higher education by expanding scholarship opportunities, and help those seeking vocational training to launch a new career.”
An issuance of Coronavirus relief funds that Connecticut received under the CARES Act will be reserved to assist districts with necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency, between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020.
The Connecticut State Department of Education will provide ongoing technical assistance to districts as it pertains to eligible activities and spending under the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which include personal protective equipment such as masks as well as laptops and more staff for distant learning opportunities.
Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said that it is paramount that students have access to this technology.
“By strategically aligning our federal and state resources, the state will maximize its efforts to prioritize equitable access to technology and high-quality curriculum, accelerate learning opportunities, and provide for the social and emotional well-being of students, teachers and staff,” Cardona said. “We will continue to aggressively pursue funding sources to help districts fill funding gaps and meet the anticipated and unknown costs of educating students over the next year.”
As of Aug. 8, 2020, there have been 50,320 positive cases of the virus with 4,441 deaths in Connecticut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.