News Story

Schools Struggle To Spend Their Federal COVID Bucks Fast Enough

The lobbyist for West Michigan school districts says they need more time

A group representing Michigan school district wants more time to spend the COVID windfall schools have received.

Michigan schools have received $6 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money as of April 15, and at least 78% of it remains unspent. That’s $4.64 billion. The money came in three separate categories, each with its own deadline for how quickly it must be spent. Some school districts are having a hard time spending it quickly enough and have called for federal officials to grant an extension.

Education Advocates in West Michigan, an advocacy group of 43 school districts, has asked members of Michigan’s congressional delegation to extend the deadline for one tranche of money to 2026. The group cites construction delays and says more time will allow schools to sidestep some rising costs. Some of the money is specifically aimed at improvements to school heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Another category of spending is called “School Facility Repairs and Improvements to Reduce Risk of Virus Transmission.”

The first pot of federal COVID money granted to Michigan public schools contained $350.4 million, which must be spent by Sep. 30. Nearly all — 94% — has been spent. The second pot contains $1.49 billion, with a spending deadline of Sept. 30, 2023; schools have spent 33% of this.

The third pot contains $3.71 billion, and it must be spent by Sept. 30, 2024. Only 2% of this money has been spent. Federal law requires districts to submit a detailed spending plan to the Michigan Department of Education for how they will use it. At least 20% of the money must be used to mitigate learning losses that came from closing classrooms during the pandemic.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.