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Dept. of Education disaster funding opportunity for libraries

Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Education announced the availability of nearly $2.7 billion in federal assistance to schools, school districts, local education agencies and institutions of higher education in meeting the educational needs of students affected by various disasters including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as well as the 2017 California wildfires. The Department has announced the assistance for nine states and territories over the past several months, most recently adding the U.S. Virgin Islands last week. Although funding is not specifically dedicated to libraries, school libraries are eligible for funding.

The Secretary of Education recently released the application for state educational agencies (SEAs) to apply for initial funding under the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations (“Restart”) program, one of five relief programs authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

Under Restart, the Department may award federal funding to Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These SEAs, in turn, will provide aid or services to local education agencies (LEAs), charter schools, private schools, colleges and universities to help defray expenses related to the restart of operations in, the reopening of, and the re-enrollment of students in elementary and secondary schools that serve an area affected by a covered disaster or emergency. Libraries should work to provide input to local and state agencies as implementation plans are developed. The Department will determine the total amount to allocate to the Restart program based on information provided by SEAs in their applications for the Restart program and the still-to-be-released Emergency Impact Aid program.

According to an accompanying FAQ document, the Department clarifies library eligibility:

What are some examples of allowable costs under Restart?

For any of these costs to be allowable, they must comply with the Cost Principles in 2 CFR part 200, subpart E (e.g., the costs must be “necessary and reasonable” for proper and efficient administration of the Restart program, 2 CFR § 200.403) and support the restart of operations in, the reopening of, and the re-enrollment of students in elementary and secondary schools that serve an area in which the Federal government declared a major disaster related to a covered emergency or disaster.

Restart funds may be used to support —

(e) Rental of mobile educational units and leasing of neutral sites or spaces

  • Replacing bookmobiles for school library services

(f) Initial replacement of instructional materials and equipment, including textbooks

  • Restocking school libraries with books, magazines, resource materials, media supplies, etc.

If you are in a school or university library in an eligible state, make sure to offer your input to local and state agencies as their implementation plans are developed.

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Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the deputy director of government relations at the American Library Association’s Washington Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before coming to the ALA in 2014, Kevin was the vice president of government affairs for the American Hotel and Lodging Association for 20 years.

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