Federal Support for School Facility Needs 
School Administrator, October 2022

A few recent federal government programs have been created that can support schools in making critical improvements. With an $85 billion annual shortfall for construction and maintenance of school buildings across the country, these programs won’t rise to meet the full level of need, but they are helpful, nonetheless.

Through federal COVID-19 relief funding and the bipartisan infrastructure law, the federal government has begun to invest limited dollars into school facilities. Vermont, California, Virginia, Connecticut, New York and other states have passed legislation that builds on top of the federal action to focus on air quality and energy efficiency in school facilities, providing funding through new and existing programs.

Additionally, the increased attention on indoor air quality since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred national attention that has mobilized leaders to prioritize facilities improvements in unprecedented ways. For example, as part of its strategy to deal with the long-term challenge of COVID-19, the White House has focused on indoor air quality in buildings, including schools.

The American Rescue Plan (passed in March 2021) and the bipartisan infrastructure law (passed in November 2021) created programs with funding to help schools address some aspects of facilities. Through the ARP’s Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief funding, schools have the option to spend some of the $122 billion on school facility upgrades that help students and teachers stay healthy and keep schools operating.

The bipartisan infrastructure law also established a $500 million grant program at the Department of Energy to save schools money with energy upgrades that protect health. The Biden administration has pulled together commitments and programs from various agencies to promote healthy, energy-efficient facilities and transportation in our public school systems and has placed a spotlight on the topic through its Biden-Harris Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure.