COVID Relief Funding in the Music Classroom

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding is currently on its way to school districts across the United States. This funding, passed by Congress in December as part of a COVID-19 relief bill, amounts to approximately $54.3 billion of support for K-12 schools.

Portrait of teacher working in classroom using face mask | FG Trade


States received their allotments at the beginning of February and will soon begin distributing money to school districts based on Title I, Part A funding formulas. With additional help on the way, now is the time to plan with school administrators about how this funding can support music education. NAfME recommends reaching out to your building principal to discuss the resources that are necessary to conduct music classes safely in-person. The principal will either have spending authority on the funds or will be able to help submit a request for music-related purchases at the district level.

How can COVID relief funding support music education? 

The law identifies 12 types of spending as allowable uses of ESSER funds, the first of which is “any activity authorized by the ESEA of 1965” and other federal education laws. This means that if funding an activity is authorized under any well-rounded education programs, such as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant authorized under Title IV-A of ESSA, that purchase would be allowable with ESSER funds as well. Other federal laws for which ESSER funds can be used include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act, and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. 

ESSER funds can also be used to support music instruction while mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Outlined below are potential purchases or payments these funds may support, identified with the relevant use number from the statute (included at the bottom of this post).

  • Purchasing masks, bell covers, or other protective equipment for use in the music classroom
    • Allowable under #3, #5
  • Supporting training for music educators on strategies to conduct in-person music instruction safely (see NFHS/NAfME Reopening Guidance)
    • Allowable under #6
  • Purchasing supplies to sanitize instruments (see Instrument Cleaning Guidelines)
    • Allowable under #7
  • Purchasing devices for internet connectivity, laptops, and/or supplemental software that would allow for instruction and assessment through virtual means
    • Allowable under #9
  • Paying for additional instruction, such as through an adjunct teacher, private lessons instructor, or full-time teacher, to provide remediation in music
    • Allowable under #11
  • Purchasing materials to set up music classroom with physical distance between students such as masking tape or outdoor tents and/or purchasing equipment, such as a media cart, to make the music classroom mobile.
    • Allowable under #12

The statute identifies the following eligible uses of funds:

(1) Any activity authorized by the ESEA of 1965, including the Native Hawaiian Education Act and the Alaska Native Educational Equity, Support, and Assistance Act (20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq.), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.) (‘‘IDEA’’), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.), the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (20 U.S.C. 2301 et seq.) (‘‘the Perkins Act’’), or subtitle B of title VII of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11431 et seq.).

(2) Coordination of preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies with State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments, and other relevant agencies, to improve coordinated responses among such entities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.

(3) Providing principals and others school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools.

(4) Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population.

(5) Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies.

(6) Training and professional development for staff of the local educational agency on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.

(7) Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of a local educational agency, including buildings operated by such agency.

(8) Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, including for how to provide meals to eligible students, how to provide technology for online learning to all students, how to provide guidance for carrying out requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1401et seq.) and how to ensure other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all Federal, State, and local requirements.

(9) 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.

(10) Providing mental health services and supports.

(11) Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.

(12) Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational H. R. 748—287 agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency.

NAfME Public Policy Staff, February 18, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (