Milford schools eye $8 million in federal relief grants

Milford School Supt. Dr. Anna Cutaia

Milford School Supt. Dr. Anna Cutaia

Milford Public Schools / Contributed photo /

MILFORD - Financial assistance is on the way to Milford, in the form of two more federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grants.

The Milford Board of Education has received an ESSER 2 and ESSER 3 grants, which between them total more than $8 million.

The ESSER 2 grant gives the district a total of just over $2.3 million and it is available to spend through Sept. 30, 2024. That means the funds must be “committed to and expended by that date,” Superintendent of Schools Anna Cutaia told the board at its March 22 meeting.

The ESSER 3 grant will give the schools an estimated $5.8 million that is available through Sept. 20, 2023. Cutaia and other superintendents have had discussions about trying to extend ESSER 3 to 2024, but that is not official yet, she said.

Cutaia said that with the new grants, it is important to distinguish between supplementing (building on or adding to) and supplanting (replacing or taking the place of) funds. An important component with ESSER 2 and 3 is that the funds must be used for new purposes and programs.

“Federal law prohibits recipients of federal funds from replacing state, local, or agency funds with federal funds,” she said. “Therefore, we can’t take locally raised taxpayer funds that would normally go to the general fund, reduce our budget and then use federal funds to supplant that.”

School board Chairman Susan Glennon echoed Cutaia’s point, emphasizing its importance, especially in relation to budgeting next year and into the future.

“I just want everyone to keep that in mind because that is a very, very important point and we may have to mention that as we are in public settings,” she said.

Cutaia added that the exact amount of ESSER 3 funds available was still unknown.

“It is a preliminary estimate and we have still yet to receive an official notice of the exact amount of ESSER 3, so this number is an estimate,” she said. With ESSER 3 the state can require that some of the money be spent in specific categories. This is not the case with ESSER 2.

The district received guidance from the state Department of Education on how the grants can be used. The items include: administering high-quality assessments; tracking student attendance, and improving student engagement in distance education; improving the preparedness response to emergencies; purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities; purchasing educational technology; developing summer learning and supplemental after-school programs; improving indoor air quality and more.

A potential consequence of not using the funds correctly is the reduction of funds in other grants provided to the school district, Cutaia said. The district also could have to pay back the federal funds that replaced local and state funding if the money were not used appropriately, she said.

The ESSER grants are the latest in a series of federal relief funds that Milford has received. The school board received $957,310 under the Corona Relief Fund. This money was used for things such as personal protective equipment, sanitizing, and transportation.

Through ESSER 1 the district received $456,031, which can be used to cover money already spent battling the virus.

“These funds are intended for COVID response efforts and we can go back in our costs to the first day of the emergency in March 13, 2020,” she said.