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Local Schools Got Millions in COVID Relief Funds. Are They at Risk from Congressional Clawback?



Local school districts still have hundreds of millions in unspent COVID money sitting in their coffers. (Shutterstock)
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The federal government is clawing back unspent COVID relief funding as part of the congressional bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

Local school districts still have hundreds of millions of dollars in their coffers that they received from massive spending bills approved during the height of the pandemic.

But Anthony Camacho, press aide to Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said the Department of Education had committed to the states that K-12 COVID funding was considered obligated, and unspent funds would not have to be returned.

Funding for higher education totaling about $390 million that had not been claimed or used will stay in the Treasury, he said.

Fresno Unified School District, which received a total of $770 million in COVID relief funding, will have $250 million remaining by the end of the current fiscal year, spokeswoman Diana Diaz said.

The district plans to spend the remainder in the upcoming year. According to a board presentation in March, $82.5 million will be spent on classroom HVAC upgrades, $41.7 million on outdoor support space (pending approval by the California Department of Education), and $20.6 million on the Farber Educational Center, which will house alternative educational and career technical education programs.

In addition, COVID relief funds will pay for facility space for eLearn school and new social emotional staff, class size supports, curriculum supports, professional development, and social-emotional support, Diaz said.

Clovis Unified plans to spend its remaining $26,497,201 next year, out of its initial allocation of $119,027,362, spokeswoman Kelly Avants said. The targeted areas include campus monitors, nurses on special assignment, intervention teacher hours, summer school jobs, infrastructure to support increased dependence on technology, wireless access points in classrooms, projector upgrades, and increasing student access to technology devices, she said.

Sanger Unified, which has received $42,881,925, still has $17 million remaining to spend next year, spokesman Cary Catalano said. The district is targeting learning loss/academic interventions, HVAC, and front office and health spaces remodels, he said.

Central Unified did not provide information by deadline.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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