Iowa Awarded Over $70 Million in Federal Funding to Help Schools Impacted by COVID-19

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Schools across Iowa will receive federal aid to help pay for COVID-19 pandemic expenses.

Governor Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday $71.6 million will be funded through the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund.

Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ahart said the district will receive $9.4 million.

“We’re tracking a variety of expenses, but just in terms of internet connectivity and device distribution, we’re approaching the $2 million mark,” Ahart said.

DMPS has provided 5,000 households with internet access and distribute around 20,000 devices for at-home learning.

Ahart said the money is pre-determined by the legislation.

“We don’t really ask for it. We do have to apply for it, but the CARES Act actually designates that the states have to use their Title I distribution method. So, they’re able to calculate how much each district gets by formula,” Ahart said.

Waukee Community School District expects to receive $190,000.

Waukee Community Schools Chief Financial Officer Sarah Kautz said the district is still deciding how to allocate the money.

“Those are one-time funds, so we want to be real thoughtful about how we spend those monies. But some of the things that come to mind would be the technology that we purchased to support those online learning activities,” Kautz said.

Aside from technology, DMPS also plans to put the money toward food expenses, PPE and paying employees who are not paid through the general funding.

Ahart said there is enough funding to pay its employees through the end of the school year, but if the district has to add on days, it can get tricky.

“For instance, our teachers. We have so many contract days with our teachers and we are using all of those days this year, so if we wanted to add days to add additional days of school, that’s certainly not in the budget,” Ahart said.

Kautz said school budgets can be complicated because certain expenses have to be paid within certain groupings.

“There are different silos of money or different funds so the revenues that receive sales tax funds or property tax, state dollars — there’s very strict guidelines as to how we’re allowed to use those funds. It is very complicated, and we have to be very careful that we are following those rules,” Kautz said.

Schools have until May 11 to submit applications for the federal funding.

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