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Greater Cincinnati schools receiving hundreds of millions of pandemic relief dollars from federal government

Todd Dykes, WLWT |

Avoiding a cash flow crunch while helping students recover from what may have been a lost year of learning is the goal for Jenn Wagner, treasurer at CPS and for Mike Holbrook, superintendent of the Hamilton City School District.

Since the pandemic began, Wagner says more than $110 million has been allocated to CPS by the federal government for COVID-19-related support. Those dollars have to be spent in the next two-and-a half years.

So far, CPS has used federal dollars to add nurses to every school, which cost an extra $6 million. $8 million has gone toward remote learning devices for students and extra gear for staff members so they could work from home. This money came from the first federal coronavirus relief bill, passed by Congress shortly after the pandemic began.

Another measure, signed by then President Trump in December, will send an additional $93 million CPS’ way. Around $30 million is expected to be spent on a full-day ‘summer scholars’ program, a 900% increase compared to what the district spent on traditional summer school in 2019.

But Wagner points out that all the cash comes with a note of caution. “We’re not getting a $93 million check to sit in our bank account,” she said. “We spend the money first and then ask for reimbursement, right. So it could potentially be a cash flow issue for a lot of districts.”

So far, schools in Holbrook’s district are in line to get more than $16 million.

“A lot of those monies initially were used to purchase safety things, you know, masks, sanitation devices, signage, you know, plexiglass. Now we’re getting into some of the things that are actually going to service students academically,” he said.

Holbrook said the pandemic has inspired innovation in education, which could reach new heights thanks to all the federal support.

“I think it is transformative,” Holbrook said. “It’s been difficult to go through but once we get past that there’s going to be some really good things that have come from this.”

Both Holbrook and Wagner said it’s important for families in their districts to know that the federal relief does come with an expiration date. Because of that, some new programming may only be temporary since each relief measure has its own “spend by” date.

There is a third round of money heading to local districts and Wagner thinks CPS may be in line to get an additional $205 million.

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