The CARES Act: A Federal Funding Opportunity for Health and Physical Education

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During this time of uncertainty, many educators are facing potential concerns we never imagined. Fortunately, Congress — in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education — has put a plan in place to help support schools as they navigate these uncharted waters.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund).

Through this fund, the U.S. Department of Education will award grants to state educational agencies for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation.

Funding Impact on Health and Physical Education

ESSER funds can have a significant impact on our health and physical education programs! A school district that receives funds under this program may use the funds for any of the following:

  • Any activity previously funded through your Every Student Succeeds Act Title funded programs, including Title II and Title IV-A funds, which both support health and physical education.
  • Providing mental health services and supports.
  • Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and to continue employing existing staff.
  • Training and professional development for staff on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean facilities.
  • Activities to address the unique needs of low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth.
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs, including addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
  • Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and students with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment.
Girl doing yoga

Now’s the Time to Advocate

Health and physical education are more important than ever in our schools — and HPE teachers are in an ideal position to guide students through the COVID-19 crisis by providing SEL, health skills, and mental health support.

Be proactive and advocate NOW with your school and district leaders about how health and physical education can support students in the re-entry process so you have an impact within the larger school plan.

It’s also important to work together with your colleagues, including other well-rounded subject matter experts and school and district leaders, to create clear, concise, cross-curricular collaboration on the best use of available funding. Knowing how your school and district choose to spend these funds and what their overall priorities are for school re-entry will help you adapt your program to align with those priorities and best support students.

*Please note, each state must apply for funding individually. States that receive funds must create guidance to support K-12 and higher education, and a portion of the funds must be used for emergency grants for COVID-19 relief. For more information on how, and if your state is distributing funds, please reach out to your state educational agency.

Additional Resources


Keri Schoeff
Keri Schoeff

Keri Schoeff currently serves as the Safe, Healthy & Active Students Specialist for the Arizona Department of Education where she provides leadership and professional development on all components of Title IV-A programming, specifically ensuring that every student is provided with a safe, healthy, active, and supportive learning environment.