Erie County using $15M in CARES Act funds to subsidize school COVID prevention

Aug 20, 2020

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced on Facebook Live Thursday that $15 million in federal CARES Act funding will be used to subsidize COVID-related costs in public schools across the county before the end of the year.
Credit Mark Poloncarz Facebook

Publicly-funded schools across Erie County will receive an extra $15 million in federal funding for COVID-related costs before the end of 2020.

In a Facebook Live announcement Thursday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced the county had received approval to use CARES Act funds to help public schools and public-related charter schools in the county pay for sanitizing classrooms and buses, purchase protective equipment, and cover costs associated with virtual learning.

“Such as the cost associated with laptops, the cost associated with paying for the bandwidth associated with virtual learning, and the other things that go along with it,” Poloncarz explained.

Each district will receive $100 dollars per student based on the New York State Education Department’s population numbers from the 2018-2019 school year. Districts will receive an additional 50-dollars per economically disadvantaged student, such as those who qualify for free school lunch.

The smallest allocation is $100,000 dollars for the Town of Holland's 864 students, and the largest is more than $4 million for the City of Buffalo's 31,050 students.

More than $60 million in CARES Act funding has already been spent as part of Erie County’s overall response to COVID-19. But Poloncarz said this combined $15 million for schools comes with specific guidelines.

“Based on CARES Act funding, we believe we can only fund public or publicly-related charter schools that receive their funding from a public source,” Poloncarz said. “We do not believe that we can fund private schools because they receive their funding from different sources, and the CARES Act funding is for direct response by governments to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

He also said the money would not be going to parents in the county, and could not be used to pay for teacher salaries or address shortfalls in a district’s original budget.