Sustainability & Federal Pandemic Funding

Federal funding for COVID relief provides significant opportunities for afterschool and summer programs.

The $122 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funds for K-12 schools, 90% of which went direct to local school districts, is a crucial way to help students through afterschool and summer programs: providing academic and whole child support for many students that are still feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential to find sustainable funding sources that will last beyond the current September 2024 deadline. On this page, we'll discuss strategies to sustain programs and continue to support children and youth, both through existing funding that can be tapped into as well as advocacy opportunities to make the case for local, state and federal funding, as well as private philanthropy, to address the funding cliff.

As of fall 2023, more than 60% of ESSER III funds have been spent, although this varies with some state/districts yet to spend the majority of their funds. Of $8.4 billion ARP ESSER III available through state level set asides for afterschool, summer, and learning recovery, about $3 billion has been spent through grant competitions to local afterschool & summer programs.

The Afterschool Alliance conducted analysis to determine how many local districts afterschool programs are comprehensive, evidence-based programs providing academic, social and emotional supports, with estimates of at least $5.4 billion in local district ESSER III funds used for afterschool, summer or combined programs. Additionally, at least $2 billion in ARP Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (from the US Treasury Department) has supported city-funded afterschool and summer programs – based on a National League of Cities estimate. Given these estimates, nationally the ARP funding cliff that needs to addressed is approximately $10.4 billion and likely to grow.

Harnessing existing support for local program sustainability

Working to increase available funds

  • Advocating for funding
    • Funding Out-of-School Time Programs—Now and in the Future - this fact sheet and resource from the Children’s Funding Project in collaboration with Afterschool Alliance and the Grantmaker’s for Education discusses a wide range of local, state and federal funding ideas and opportunities. Recognizing that COVID-19 education and child care relief funds soon expire, the tool outlines opportunities for generating new federal, state, and local funding sources that may help advocacy groups, intermediaries, programs, families, and other stakeholders keep quality programs operational and meeting needs of youth in their communities.
    • Building or being a part of a state level campaign to support afterschool and summer is vital to increasing the funding available, including identifying potential allies and coalition members. This tool was developed by the Afterschool Alliance and Voices for Healthy Kids and is focused on supporting healthy out of school time but can be applied to broader funding streams as well - Overview and PDF version
    • Advocating to expand federal funding: Take action to make the case for increasing federal afterschool and summer funding
    • Pandemic Relief Funds Expand Supports for Underserved Students: This spotlight dives deep into how St. Louis Park Public Schools in Minnesota used American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (ARP ESSER) to expand support and opportunities for underserved students in afterschool and summer programs. It also provides strategies that program providers can use to replicate their success.
  • Making the Case for Sustaining Funding
  • State Legislative Efforts to Support Afterschool and Summer
    • Overview of state policy strategies to support afterschool and summer funding
    • View this template for an afterschool or summer legislative proposal. In addition to sample language, this template asks questions and raises points you and other advocates will need to consider and agree upon as you create your legislation and before you seek a legislative sponsor.
    • National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) Summer for All Model Legislation Template
    • National Conference of State Legislatures information on afterschool and summer legislation 
    • Examples of states that supported afterschool in their budgets in 2023 
    • Examples of state legislative efforts supporting afterschool and summer funding in 2023, including bill language that can be a resource for state efforts: