Maine schools will receive an additional $164 million in coronavirus relief funds to help implement health and safety protocols and pay for other aspects of their response to the pandemic.

The funding announced Wednesday by Gov. Janet Mills builds on $165 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act, funding the governor announced earlier this year.

“School officials across Maine are working day and night to protect the health of their students, their staff, and their communities while providing a high quality education. They deserve our full and unwavering support,” Mills said in a news release. “This funding helps ensure that our schools are best equipped as they can be to meet the challenges they face now as well as any that may arise this fall.”

The funds will be distributed to school districts starting next week and using a weighted formula developed by the Maine Department of Education in collaboration with superintendents across the state. Districts will also have to submit applications describing how the funds will be spent in order to comply with constraints Congress has placed on use of the money and to ensure compliance with the health and safety requirements the state has set.

Once the applications are approved, districts can submit receipts for reimbursement. Schools have until Dec. 30 to access the funding, according to the federal requirements.

The money can be used to pay for pandemic-related expenses including substitute teachers or learning facilitators as well as other needs like transportation, facility modifications to support physical distancing, cleaning supplies, technology and connectivity needs and professional development for teachers who must become fluent in hybrid and remote learning models.

The announcement Wednesday brings the total the Mills administration has dedicated to schools to $329 million of the $1.25 billion the state has received in CARES Act funding. Schools in Maine also received close to $44 million from the U.S. Department of Education through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund in the CARES Act.

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