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Utah schools, colleges to receive over $200M in federal COVID-19 education relief funding

CARES Act assisting K-12 schools as well as public, private colleges

FILE - An entrance to the University of Utah campus.
An entrance to the University of Utah campus.
Jordan Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah public schools as well as public and private colleges will receive more than $200 million in COVID-19 relief funding under the CARES Act recently passed by Congress.

Utah public schools will receive $67.8 million, with at least 90% to be granted to school districts and charter schools for a broad array of purposes. Those could include summer education programs for at-risk students, the purchase of educational technology or training employees how prevent the spread of infectious disease.

“We anticipate the U.S. Department of Education will have a grant process available next week. With that in place, we will work with Utah’s school districts and charter schools to fill out those grant requests,” said Mark Peterson, spokesman for the Utah State Board of Education.

Federal guidance describes uses of the funding as “very flexible.”

Utah’s public colleges, universities and technical colleges have been allotted nearly $100 million. The appropriations are based on enrollment and numbers of students who qualify for the federal Pell Grant Program, which provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students as well as and some graduate students.

Among Utah’s public universities, Utah Valley University is expected to receive nearly $23 million while Snow College will receive $2.4 million and the rest with varying amounts in between.

The state’s technical colleges have been allotted a combined $2.95 million.

According to a letter from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to the nation’s college and university presidents, at least 50% of the allocations “must be reserved to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.”

The University of Utah, which expects to receive $18.8 million, is developing a framework for how the money will be used but its primary goal is to keep students enrolled and on track to earning their degrees, said U. spokesman Christopher Nelson.

One option may be supplementing existing financial aid for summer and fall semesters.

Nelson noted that the university has been providing emergency support for students through private philanthropy efforts.

“To date, we’ve received and redistributed more than $200,000 to 300 students. Needs have ranged from purchasing technology for the online curriculum, helping students pay for child care, making up for lost wages, car repair, food, funds to assist traveling home, shipping belongings home for our housing areas, and other basic needs. We will continue to raise money and distribute these funds,” Nelson said.

Private colleges, universities and proprietary colleges in Utah are also scheduled to receive federal COVID-19 relief funding. Brigham Young University has been allocated $32.2 million, the most of any institution in Utah.

“BYU is in the process of determining how funds allocated for our students through the CARES Act can best be distributed. Assisting our students with their needs is our first priority right now. We have not yet made any other decisions in regard to CARES Act funding for the institution,” said university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.

Westminster College, a private, nonprofit liberal arts college, is expected to receive $1.8 million.

LDS Business College will receive $1.4 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education list of allocations.

Stevens–Henager College, a private, nonprofit college based in Ogden with campuses in Utah and Idaho, will receive $2.8 million.

Roseman University of Health Sciences will be allotted $893,841.

The Paul Mitchell School of Salt Lake City, which offers beauty and cosmetology programs, has been allotted $647,756.

Among public K-12 schools, the funding can be used for a broad array of purposes such as supporting existing activities or programs authorized by federal law which can include students with disabilities, school accountability, technical education, literacy, students experiencing homelessness and school accountability.

Other acceptable uses include “planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care,” according to agency documents.

Another acceptable use would be mental health services, school preparedness and categories that allow “providing principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address school needs” and “other activities that are necessary to maintain operations and continuity of services and continuing to employ existing staff.”

The Department of Education is also providing $29 million to Utah funding under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. Sixty percent of the funding is based on the state’s population of youths ages 5-24 and 40% is based on each state’s number of students counted for the purposes of making Title I grants to school districts or public charter schools.

The CARES Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, is a $2 trillion package of assistance measures, including $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund in response to the novel coronavirus.

Four grant programs were created through the CARES Act: Education Stabilization Fund Discretionary Grants; Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund; Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund; and Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.