MDE requests millions in federal funding for virus response

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Education is asking the federal government for $390 million to meet the needs of both students and staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sum of money the state says it needs is a piece of the $13.2 billion federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act which was signed by President Donald Trump late last month.

These funds would be a onetime funding source for public schools and as such would need to be spent carefully in addressing needs on a school by school basis. Much of the money will be spent to address the technology gap which exists between so many districts across the state. 

Though $390 million seems like a lot of money, state Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice says the funding is relatively limited, especially in relation to the needs of the districts which existed pre-pandemic, now highlighted by needs which have arisen post-outbreak. 

Those federal dollars can be spent on a variety of things for schools here in West Michigan, including coordination and preparedness, resource efforts to help improve schools’ responses to respond to additional COVID-19 outbreaks in the future. 

New ways to meet the needs of low-income, or even homeless children, which includes service deliveries and other activities. 

Sanitation efforts supplies and other methods of preventing the spread of infectious diseases in schools in the future. 

Planning for extended closures down the road, which includes the purchase of technology, meals and mental health resources for students to prevent a large gap between the closure of schools again, and the startup of lessons remotely. 

The department of education expects their application will be quickly approved, if it is, expect to hear more information from the department in the coming days as they share their plans for distribution with school districts here in West Michigan.