The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday it has approved Maine’s plan for using the latest round of coronavirus relief funding in schools, triggering the release of $137 million in federal money.

In all, Maine is receiving more than $411 million in American Rescue Plan, or ARP, funds for schools and has already received $274 million. The department said the last $137 million will now be released after it approved the state’s plan for using the money to safely reopen schools.

“I am excited to announce approval of Maine’s plan,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a news release. “It is heartening to see, reflected in these state plans, the ways in which states are thinking deeply about how to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to schools and communities, particularly as we look ahead to the upcoming academic year.”

A total of 49 states and Washington, D.C., have submitted their plans for using ARP funds to the department, and to date 37 have been approved, including Maine and three other states approved Monday. The plans show how states are going to use the federal funds to support safe in-person instruction and meet the social, emotional, mental health and academic needs of students.

Maine’s plan includes opening schools for full-time in-person instruction; support for vaccination clinics and pooled testing; investments in expanded after-school programming; and a fast-track “learning facilitator” program to help schools meet staffing needs through the credentialing of paraprofessional-level educators.

“The team at Maine Department of Education is thrilled that our plan has received approval from the U.S. Department of Education and that we can now begin approving school administrative unit plans for use of the ARP funds,” said Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin in the release from the U.S. education department. “These funds will support state-level efforts to propel our education system forward with a whole child focus, and will assist schools with innovative programming to address the academic and social-emotional needs of students while ensuring that they are learning in an environment that is safe and healthy.”

The $411 million in American Rescue Plan funds represent the latest coronavirus relief for K-12 schools in Maine. At least 90 percent of the money must be sub-granted by the state to local school districts, and school districts must use at least 20 percent of the money they’re awarded to address learning loss. The funds are available for use through Sept. 30, 2023, and can also be used to cover costs back to March 13, 2020, when a national emergency was declared.

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