For several years, OSPI has channeled federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to youth development through the Afterschool, Summer Program Fund, and Community-Based Organization (CBO) grants. Currently, more than 130 nonprofits and public agencies utilize this funding for afterschool and summer programs, mentoring, wrap-around services, and more.
Last week we learned that the legislature is proposing to fund additional CBO and afterschool programs using these same ESSER funds. However, these ESSER dollars have already been obligated by OSPI and are currently in contracts. This includes many youth development providers that received funding through the Community-Based Organization (CBO) and Afterschool grants in the last budget cycle. These grants have been allocated to support student learning and engagement this summer, into the next school year, and through summer 2024.
Given the large amount of funding related to ESSER and the end date for ESSER III funds (September 30, 2024), we support OSPI’s efforts to extend the reach of these dollars for as long as possible. However, the balance sheet for ESSER III shows unfulfilled contract reimbursements as unspent funds. This is because providers cannot access their reimbursements until after services and supports are complete.
While we were thrilled to see additional funds in the CBO and Afterschool grants in both the House and Senate 23-25 budgets, we do not want ESSER funding to be taken away from current grantees.
Consistency in programming is key to engagement and that is done by allowing programs to serve youth as planned and budgeted. While we still need increased investment in youth development, reallocating federal ESSER funds from existing contracts does not achieve this goal. It stands to harm already stretched CBOs and disrupt deeply needed supports for youth across our state.