Hamblen Schools land large stimulus funding, but with restrictions

Hamblen County schools received more than $20 million in federal funding from the stimulus package approved by U.S. Congress about two weeks ago.

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said this week, though, that there has to be caution when looking at the money.

“There are pretty serious restrictions on this money,” he said. “And it is one-time money.”

Congress approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package a little less than two weeks ago that also included a third round of funding for schools. The money is part the Emergency and Secondary School Relief Fund, commonly referred to as ESSER 3.0.

All funds given to school districts are one-time only payments and must be spent on items or activities related directly to the COVID-19 pandemic such as technology, safety measures or catching school children back up on their studies.

Throughout the Lakeway Area, all other school districts saw millions coming to their fund balances as the federal money trickled down to the local level throughout the week.

Perry reiterated that the money has to have specific covid-related purposes.

“It can’t be used on just regular school things,” he said.

Federal officials have also stressed that it can also not be used to supplant local dollars, it can only be used to supplement them. Everything that the money has been spent on has to be reported to the state. Due to that, Hamblen County schools voted just a week ago to hire a new full-time employee for the course of two years to help navigate the process.

Perry said in Hamblen County, one thing the money will possibly be spent on is technology.

“We will spend a significant amount of this money on technology in case we have to go virtual again,” he said.

Allocations of ESSER 3.0 throughout the Lakeway Area are:

Hamblen: $20.2 million

Claiborne: $11.6 million

Cocke: $15.1 million

Grainger: $7.4 million

Greene: $14.7 million

Greeneville City Schools: $4.6 million

Hancock: $4.2 million

Hawkins: $16.4 million

Jefferson: $14 million

Newport Elementary: $4.5 million

Rogersville City Schools: $1.8 million