How to Use American Rescue Plan Act K-12 Education Funds to Identify and Support Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), Congress’ most recent package for COVID-19 relief provides nearly $123 billion in aid for K-12 education through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), including several reservations to support students experiencing homelessness and other marginalized student groups.

In addition to the $123 billion in ESSER funds, ARP includes $800 million in funding specifically dedicated to support the identification, enrollment, and school participation of children and youth experiencing homelessness, including through wrap-around services. A summary of the timing, allocation, and uses of these funds is here.

SEAs and LEAs should strategically use and leverage both ARP ESSER funds and dedicated homelessness funding to locate, engage, maintain connection, and support children and youth experiencing homelessness.

How can state education agencies use ARP funds for students experiencing homelessness?

Add capacity for Office of the State Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth to:

How can schools and districts use ARP funds for students experiencing homelessness?

1. Increase outreach and identification by:

Center equity in ESSER funds decisions.

Center equity in ESSER funds decisions. Black, Latinx, Native American and Pacific Islander students are more likely to experience homelessness than White students; LGBTQ students also are more likely to experience homelessness than heterosexual or cisgender students. Hire diverse outreach staff, translate all materials, and ensure cultural competence and sensitivity to the impacts of racism and trauma, as well as to the strengths of these populations, in outreach and service provision. Provide support for liaisons to understand the unique needs of students and families of color experiencing homelessness, including how to center anti-racist approaches in conversations and interactions with them.

2. Enhance communication options with students and families.

3. Increase counseling and social work services.

Kansas City Public Schools in Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City Public Schools purchased phones with one and two year contracts for McKinney-Vento high school seniors. Related blog: Creative Ways to Reach Students Experiencing Homelessness During COVID-19, written by Melissa Douglas, Homeless Liaison, Kansas City Public Schools, MO
Paducah Public Schools in Paducah, Kentucky
Paducah Public Schools in KY purchased a van with community donations, and the McKinney-Vento program has teamed up with school nutrition to provide school supplies, hygiene items and food.

4. Hire “systems navigators” to help families and youth access education and other ARP services, such as shelter, utilities, housing and rental assistance, child care, Head Start, unemployment, and tax credits.

5. Provide academic coaching, in-person enrichment opportunities, and access to summer learning.

Confluence Academies Charter School in St. Louis, MO
Confluence Academies Charter School in St. Louis, MO set up virtual academy centers in school buildings and the community soon after buildings closed, providing transportation, meals, and teachers to help with distance learning.
Steve Smith Foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina
The Steve Smith Foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina set-up an in-person learning center for approximately 105 students experiencing homelessness in grades K-5. The Foundation works with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district to ensure all students receive meals, in addition to access to technology and support for learning.

6. Offer early childhood education services for young children experiencing homelessness.

7. Make systems and processes more McKinney-Vento friendly.

8. Help meet rising mental health needs.

9. Provide more and better transportation options – in cases where it has been determined to be the most cost-effective available transportation option, and where the LEA has received written approval from the SEA, if the purchase amounts to a cost greater than $5,000 and is expected to remain in use for a period of more than one year.