Like districts across the state, Albuquerque Public Schools have been banking on money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with COVID-19-related costs such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and Plexiglas for barriers. But it’s now unclear how much money the district will receive or what costs will be eligible for coverage.
The district was alerted by the agency that “costs associated with additional measures for operating schools in the COVID environment will likely be denied.”
For instance, an email indicates funding for PPE, masks and disinfection costs for day-to-day school operations aren’t eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
State Public Education Department Deputy Secretary of Finance and Operations Adán Delgado warned education leaders in an email that a lot of what APS was aiming to get FEMA reimbursement for is not eligible.
“This is very disheartening news for schools in the midst of budget struggles,” Delgado wrote.
According to budget documents, the district was anticipating using about $8.7 million from FEMA for pandemic expenses.
It’s a difficult time for school budgets throughout New Mexico with reopening costs stacking up during a statewide financial crisis.
NM’S RESPONSE TO IMPACT AID DECISION?: How the state Public Education Department will deal with a projected $60 million hit to school funding is a mystery as the state agency keeps tight-lipped.
The anticipated hit was highlighted by the department’s lawyers during a battle over Impact Aid funds, federal dollars that exist to help districts make up for lost property tax revenue due to tax-exempt lands in their area, among other factors. For fiscal year 2020, the U.S. Department of Education decided that the state isn’t eligible to reduce payments to school districts based on how much Impact Aid they get, like it normally does.
Cue the PED appeal that said the U.S. Department of Education’s decision would result in “downward adjustments of more than $60 million” to districts across the state.
Since then, PED decided to withdraw that appeal, leaving questions as to how the state will recover the financial ripple effects.
But Secretary Ryan Stewart said the state won’t talk about it because it’s “pending litigation,” failing to answer questions about whether school cash reserves are on the line.
LEARNING AT HOME RESOURCES: Families and teachers can access at-home educational activities, childcare resources and online learning guides at www.nmsteamhub.com.
Among the resources on the site are virtual field trips such as a video tour of the New Mexico Museum of Space History and viewing Georgia O’Keeffe Museum collections online. There’s also a section on free hotspots and internet access locations, among other supports targeting science, technology, engineering, art and math.
Shelby Perea: email@example.com