WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) today applauded the release of the first $81 billion of the $122 billion in the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund to help our nation’s Pre-K-12 public schools safely reopen and address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of their students. New Jersey will receive $1,843,058,469 of these critical funds, more than half of the $2.76 billion allocated in the ARP for the state’s public schools.
“I want to thank the Biden Administration for expediting the release of these critical resources to immediately help our schools to reopen. We all want our kids back in school, but it needs to be done safely,” said Sen. Menendez. “Over the past year, school closures due to the pandemic have exacerbated learning gaps, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, in communities of color and among students with learning differences. It has also forced many working parents, especially moms, to make difficult decisions about their employment and their family’s future. There is finally light at the end of the tunnel, and together with these critical funds we will soon be back to a world where our children are no longer in front of computer screens, but instead back in their classrooms with all their friends and teachers.”
“New Jersey’s teachers and students have had to adjust to a new reality over the course of the last year, revealing the many challenges that come with virtual learning,” said Sen. Booker. “I’m grateful to the Biden Administration for quickly releasing this federal funding, which will move us one step closer to achieving a safe return to the classroom, while also ensuring that our state’s young people receive the necessary educational support for their long-term success.”

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona also announced that the Department will be launching a new Summer Learning Enrichment Collaborative, a partnership between the Department and the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, to help states use ARP funding to develop high-quality summer learning and enrichment programs for all students, with a focus on addressing the needs of student groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“It is my top priority to get students back in the classroom for in-person instruction safely and quickly,” said Secretary Cardona. “I continue to hear from students and educators across the country who are eager to get back to in-person learning, and these resources will help schools not only reopen safely, but also to support students who were falling behind even before the pandemic. As states and schools use American Rescue Plan funds to reopen their doors, the Department of Education is committed to helping them build successful programs that will reach students most in need this spring, summer, and into the fall.”

The U.S. Department of Education is encouraging states to develop and implement plans to immediately utilize that funding to get more schools opened safely this spring and work to close the gaps in education equity that the pandemic has exacerbated. The remainder of ARP ESSER funds will become available after states submit the plans they are developing and implementing for using ARP ESSER funds to safely reopen schools and meet the needs of students to the Department.