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HomeBreaking NewsHundreds of Millions of COVID Dollars Still Unallocated by Wisconsin Public Schools

Hundreds of Millions of COVID Dollars Still Unallocated by Wisconsin Public Schools

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Public schools in Wisconsin have nine months left before the last of their COVID-19 relief cash expires, and there’s hundreds of millions of dollars still on the table.

The Institute for Reforming Government has been tracking Wisconsin’s $1.5 billion in COVID relief money.

Their latest update shows that $307 million of that haul remains unallocated.

“Before districts spend money, they are supposed to get DPI’s approval. DPI confirms whether their allocations qualify for ESSER III reimbursement. So, districts either lack DPI approval for $307 million or are spending money without DPI approval with no guarantee of reimbursement,” IRG said in its report. “Thirty-nine districts have below 50% allocated, including Green Bay and West Bend. Thirty-five districts have over $1 million left to allocate, including Milwaukee and Fond Du Lac. Eight districts are at $0 allocated.”

IRG first sounded the alarm about unallocated COVID cash in February. At that point, Wisconsin schools were sitting on about $1 billion of unallocated COVID money.

IRG’s report said the unallocated money is likely to add to the fiscal cliff that many schools across the state are facing.

“$512 million over 1.5 years has been allocated to district staff. Various factors contributed to this problem, but Wisconsin schools could confront between 1% and 4% holes in the roughly $14 billion they spend as a result. Schools’ recent 2-year, $1.2 billion increase in spendable authority may disappear more quickly than anticipated,” the report noted.

Making that cliff worse is how many schools are spending their COVID dollars.

“Construction is the 2nd-largest allocation category at 24%. This $284 million could grow from inflation or supply chain delays, which is why the Biden administration ‘strongly discouraged’ it,” IRG stated.

Unallocated doesn’t mean unspent or wasted. IRG said it simply means school boards have not filed the formal paperwork and gotten the proper permission to spend their COVID dollars.

Schools in Wisconsin have until September to make those allocations, even if the money will be spent next year.

Ben Yount - The Center Square
The Center Square contributor
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