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Education

April 15, 2020

DOE Releases $3 Billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund

By Daniel A. Cohen, Neeru "Nina" Gupta, Alexis F. Trumble

The Department of Education announced the application and disbursement process for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (“GEER”) Fund on April 14, allocating nearly $3 billion in emergency education block grants to governors across the nation. The GEER Fund is one of three accounts that comprise the CARES Act’s Education Stabilization Fund, and GEER grants are intended to ensure education continues for students of all ages impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The funds are “designed to enable governors to decide how best to meet the needs of students, schools (including charter schools and non-public schools), postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations.”

"Governors have the opportunity to truly rethink and transform the approach to education during this national emergency and ensure learning continues," said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. "At a time when so many school boards and superintendents have shut down learning for the balance of the school year, I want to encourage each and every governor to focus on continuity of education for all students. Parents, families, teachers and other local education leaders are depending on their leadership to ensure students don't fall behind."

This DOE funding follows the prior release of DOE CARES Act Funding for Higher Education and for other education institutions.  Please refer to our prior alert for guidance on how institutions of higher education can use and allocate those DOE dollars.

In order to access funds, states must complete, sign, and digitally submit an application (in PDF) to the email address GEERF@ed.gov. The application, along with instructions regarding the process, is available on the DOE’s website at https://oese.ed.gov/offices/education-stabilization-fund/governors-emergency-education-relief-fund/.

States can expect to receive GEER funds within three business days of application.

The 15-page application packet contains GEER Fund program information, instructions, the application, relevant portions of the CARES Act, and state-by-state allocation data (found in this chart). The application requires Governors, or their authorized representatives, to assure the DOE of the following:

  • GEER Funds will be used for at least one of the following:
    • To provide emergency support through grants to the local educational agencies (“LEAs”) that the State educational agency (“SEA”) deems most significantly impacted by COVID-19;
    • To provide emergency support through grants to institutions of higher education (“IHEs”) serving students within the State that the Governor determines have been most significantly impacted by COVID-19; and
    • To provide support to any other IHE, LEA, or education-related entity within the State that the Governor deems essential for carrying out emergency educational services to students for authorized activities described in Section 18003(d)(1) of the CARES Act or the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), the provision of childcare and early childhood education, social and emotional support, and the protection of education-related jobs.
  • The State will comply with the maintenance of effort provision of the CARES Act, unless the State has received a waiver.
  • The State, and each LEA, IHE, and other education-related entity that receives GEER funds will, to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to COVID-19.
  • The State will report its process for distributing GEER funds to LEAs, IHEs, or other education-related entities to the DOE within 45 days of receiving the GEER funds.
  • The State will use its best efforts to provide grant funding on an expedited basis.
  • The State will comply with all CARES Act reporting requirements and submit quarterly reports to the DOE, and will comply with additional reporting in the future as required by the Secretary of Education.
  • The State will ensure that a LEA receiving GEER funds will provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools located within the LEA.
    • A public agency must maintain control of the funds allocated to private schools; public agencies must have title to any materials, equipment, or property purchased with GEER funds; and services to private schools should be provided either directly or through contract with a public agency. Distributions to private schools should be made after “timely and meaningful” discussions with private school representatives.
  • The State will ensure that every recipient and subrecipient of GEER funds will cooperate with any examination of records with respect to such funds.
  • The State will return to the Secretary any funds received under the GEER Fund that the State does not award within 1 year of receiving such funds.

USDOE does not expect administrative or executive salaries and benefits for IHEs, SEAs, or other education related entities to be a lawful purpose for GEER funds. The Department explained that “the award of GEER Funds to state or local teachers’ unions or associations would be likely inconsistent with statutory requirements.”

There are no predetermined criteria for making allocations to LEAs, IHEs, or other education institutions; Governors and SEAs have significant discretion to make distributions within their state. In providing support to IHEs, the Governor determines those IHEs that are most significantly impacted by coronavirus. In providing support to LEAs, the  SEA determines those LEAs that are most significantly impacted by coronavirus.

Additionally, the DOE requests information related to “how and to what extent each State intends to use the award, or a portion of the award, to establish, develop, improve, or expand the availability, accessibility, capacity, and use of remote learning techniques and technologies” associated with distance education. These questions inquire into States’ intention to use GEER funds to support remote learning for all students; to use the funds to support technological capacity and access – including hardware and software, connectivity, and instructional expertise – to support remote learning for all students; and to use funds to support remote learning by developing new informational and academic resources and expanding awareness of, and access to, best practices and innovations in remote learning and support for students, families, and educators.

The Department will award these GEER Fund grants to States (governor’s offices) based on a formula stipulated in the CARES Act:

  • 60% on the basis of the State’s relative population of individuals aged 5 through 24.
  • 40% on the basis of the State’s relative number of children counted under section 1124(c) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

DeVos sent letters to each state’s Governor, informing them that “This extraordinarily flexible emergency block grant empowers you to decide how best to meet the current needs of students, schools (including charter schools and non-public schools), postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations in your State so that faculty continue to teach and students continue to learn. My Department will not micromanage how you spend these funds, but I encourage you, at a time when so many school boards, superintendents, and institutions of higher education have had to close their brick and mortar campuses for the balance of the school year, to focus these resources on ensuring that all students continue to learn most likely through some form of remote learning”

If you have any questions or would like assistance in understanding your state’s allocation under the CARES Act, please contact Dan Cohen, Nina Gupta, Lexi Trumble, or any members of the Nelson Mullins Education Team.


For additional information on COVID-19 related issues, please visit the Nelson Mullins COVID-19 resource page or contact a Nelson Mullins attorney.



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