Georgia school officials agreed Monday to distribute around $411 million in federal funding to help local school districts shore up their budgets and programs as coronavirus continues pummeling the state’s economy.
The relief funds come from about $457 million approved for Georgia public schools as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Rome City Schools’ share will be $2,015,103 and Floyd County Schools will receive $2,005,542.
The money is poised to help pay for online learning programs, school meals, staffing expenses to offset upcoming budget reductions, and special services for low-income, homeless, migrant and foster-care students.
The bulk of Georgia’s $457 million share from the CARES Act education fund will go in varying amounts to nearly 200 county and city public school districts, plus about 30 charter schools. Roughly $45 million will be set aside for emergency use.
Local allocations range from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for smaller school districts up to more than $30 million each for Gwinnett and DeKalb county school districts.
Members of the Georgia Board of Education approved funding allocations during a teleconference meeting Monday.
“Getting these funds to the local districts as soon as possible is going to be important for them,” said Scott Sweeney, the board chair.
In-person classes were cancelled across Georgia for the rest of the school year in late March, forcing the state’s nearly 2 million students to finish their studies online and exposing gaps in internet access among many underserved Georgia schools.
School districts are also facing budget issues stemming from anticipated revenue shortfalls prompted by business closures and social-distancing measures implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Officials have already begun hashing out how to trim the state Board of Education’s budget by 14% for the upcoming 2021 fiscal year, per orders last Friday by top budget-drafting lawmakers in the General Assembly.
Those cuts could result in staff furloughs or shortened work weeks on top of program impacts, board members said Monday. State agencies have until May 20 to hand in proposals for budget cuts.
“There are certain programs that are going to be more personnel and some programs that are going to be other items,” said Mike Royal, a board member. “It’s going to be tough but we’re going to get through it.”
The board is expected to discuss budget cuts in more detail during its next meeting on May 14.