Maine schools are expecting to receive almost $44 million in federal relief through a fund aimed at covering added costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money is part of more than $13.2 billion in emergency relief provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or Cares Act, for K-12 schools nationwide and announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos last week.

DeVos said in a news release the funds, made available through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund within the Cares Act, can be used by school districts for immediate needs, such as tools and resources for distance education, ensuring student health and safety and developing and implementing plans for the next school year.

Allocation of funds to school districts will be based on their eligibility for Title I Part A funding. Title I Part A is a federal program that provides districts with funding based on high percentages or numbers of low-income students.

All districts in Maine that operate their own schools receive some Title I funding. They will be eligible to receive approximately 80 percent of their 2019-2020 Title I allocations for use as emergency funds, Maine Department of Education spokeswoman Kelli Deveaux said in an email.

She said the state has applied for the funding, is awaiting approval and anticipates it will receive the money.

School districts that receive the funds can use them to cover activities and costs specific to the challenges incurred by the COVID-19 crisis including preparedness and response efforts, sanitation, professional development and distance learning, Deveaux said.

The funds were also announced last week by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who said in a news release that districts will have flexibility to use the money to cover immediate needs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to our education system, forcing students and teachers to quickly adapt to remote learning,” Collins said. “This investment will help ensure Maine school systems have the resources they need to continue to provide quality instruction and support students.”

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