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Take Advantage of ESSER Funds for K-12 Schools

Connect with a K-12 Carrier Expert

Carrier Can Help Schools Optimize ESSER Spending

Carrier is here to support schools to overcome challenges to realize results that matter for students, staff, and the community. As a proven, end-to-end HVAC strategic partner for schools, we are ready to bring innovative solutions across the equipment lifecycle to optimize learning environments. Choosing Carrier means schools have access to unparalleled expertise and technologies needed to help schools achieve desired outcomes.

We recommend that schools plan comprehensively, act early, and leverage third parties as needed to avoid or mitigate known issues with spending ESSER funds. We are here to enable schools to focus on creating a new normal with enhanced learning environments.

For more information on previous K-12 projects, please see the K-12 Resource Center.

K-12 Resource Center
Carrier Supports K-12 Schools Across Project Types to Utilize ESSER Funding

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds are a set of stimulus funds granted by the U.S. government to support schools with pandemic learning loss, by re-opening and maintaining the health and safety of America’s schools.1 Wherever your school is in the journey, Carrier can partner with you to help best utilize funds for school improvement projects.

ESSER in total has allocated $190B to America’s schools to use across the three funds listed below. Each fund has spending limitations and deadlines for obligation and liquidation that schools must follow to utilize funding.


A part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act 2,3

  • Funding Amount: $54.3 billion
  • Allocation Date: December 2020
  • Spend Obligation Date: September 2023
  • Spend Liquidation Date: January 2024

Download the CRRSA Act (ESSER II) Flyer


A part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) 2,3,4

  • Funding Amount: $123 billion
  • Allocation Date: December 2021
  • Spend Obligation Date: September 2024
  • Spend Liquidation Date: January 2025

Download the American Rescue Plan (ESSER III) Flyer

ESSER II and ESSER III fund deadlines are fast approaching. We encourage schools to leave sufficient time to plan and apply for funds and spend them accordingly. In addition to deadlines, ESSER funds have required guidelines about how funds are spent. Many schools are choosing to invest in building systems and equipment, infrastructure, new energy sources, new technologies and staff hires.1

To see ESSER and K-12 projects that Carrier has supported please see the K-12 Resource Center.

HVAC is a Priority for Schools as They Spend ESSER Funds

Schools across America are choosing HVAC as priority investment of ESSER funds. Amongst approved spend categories for ESSER III, HVAC was the second highest spend category of planned spend behind staffing, in a recent analysis by the Center for Green Schools. One reason why about half of schools of choosing to allocate ESSER III spend to HVAC is because HVAC investments can be costly. According to details from ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force, “replacing an HVAC system in an older school facility could cost between $30 and $50 per square foot.”5

HVAC is a priority category for investment for schools outside of ESSER funding as well because there is a strong value case. HVAC investments can both improve building infrastructure and operations, but also lead to positive healthy outcomes for occupants. Investing in HVAC and IAQ solutions can help schools achieve the following:

Improved Building Operations & Resilience
Student Health & Academic Enhancements
Increased Teacher Retention & Productivity
Improve School Performance
Current Challenges of ESSER Funding Use for HVAC

Schools and districts have highlighted many challenges when it comes to spending ESSER funding effectively.

We recommend that schools plan comprehensively, act early, and leverage third parties as needed to avoid or mitigate known issues with spending ESSER funds. We are here to enable schools to focus on creating a new normal with enhanced learning environments.

attach_money Spending Deadlines

Unprecedented government funding come with strict two to three year spend windows as schools are adjusting to new norms following global pandemic.

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inventory_2 Supply Chain Delays & Increased Costs

Supply chain issues like product shortages and long lead times are creating delays while trying to meet ESSER deadlines.6

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trending_up Cost Fluctuations

U.S. schools face rising costs due to equipment availability, supply chain issues, inflation, etc., creating pressure on schools to optimize allocated funds.6 This means schools must ensure quotes or cost estimates are updated.

reduce_capacity Limited Resource Capacity & Capabilities

School resource capacity and capabilities differ for HVAC capital projects meaning schools can face different challenges when executing projects.

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Frequently Asked Questions

ESSER funds can be used for the “inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement and upgrade projects” to improve indoor air quality (IAQ).1 Specific products mentioned in ESSER guidelines include “mechanical and non-mechanical HVAC systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems and window and door repair and replacement”.1 Carrier has supported K-12 schools across project types and IAQ solution types to utilize ESSER funding to make schools more resilient and improve IAQ.

Sample IAQ solutions implemented at K-12 schools include:

  • HVAC Products: Chillers, rooftop units, air purifiers, etc.
  • Air Quality Monitors: Sensors and monitors to measure IAQ
  • Digital IAQ Solutions: Monitoring solutions for IAQ
  • Controls: Building Automation and controls like Automated Logic's WebCTRL® Building Automation System

For more Carrier HVAC products and services that are covered by ESSER please see our Products & Services Page. If getting started with an HVAC project, connect with a local K-12 Carrier Expert.

  1. ESSER FAQs | US Dept. of Education

There are three funds included in ESSER and each has their own deadline for obligation (allocation of spend) and liquidation of funds. Currently, IAQ solution lead times can be longer than normal due to supply chain effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Carrier recommends administrators leave ample time for ESSER project execution and connect with vendors early in the process to ensure liquidation of funds can occur prior to deadlines. Purchasing decisions including solution selection and buying channels can affect timelines.

For more information on how to best spend ESSER dollars, please see FAQ, “What are best practices when applying for ESSER funds?” or contact your local K-12 Carrier Expert.

  • ESSER I was allocated in March 2020 and disbursed under the Coronavirus Aid Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act. It is no longer available as the spending deadline was September 30th, 2022.1,2
  • ESSER II was allocated in December 2020 and disbursed under the Coronavirus Response & Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRSSA) and is available for spend through September 2023.1,2
  • ESSER III was allocated in December 2021 and disbursed under the American Rescue Pan Act (ARPA) and is available for spend through September 2024.1,2

Funds must be liquidated within 120 calendar days (4 months) after the end of the availability period for ESSER II and ESSER III.3

  1. Understanding ESSER I, II and III Disbursements - MISBO
  2. ESSER III Fund Frequently Asked Questions | CA Dept. of Education
  3. ESSER Resources at School Outfitters

Schools who have applied for ESSER funds and are currently executing projects have noted that “supply chain issues and inflation have constrained the projects’ progress”.1 While Carrier cannot guarantee any lead times, we recommend schools leave 8-12 weeks for the design and quoting process and up to 30-50 weeks delivery and commissioning of select products. This means orders would be placed by September 2023 to meet the ESSER III liquidation deadline of January 2025 for our longest lead time IAQ solutions. Not all IAQ solutions have up to 30–50-week lead times. In addition, lead times will continue to fluctuate depending on supply chain shortages, logistics limitations, demand fluctuations and more. For the most accurate lead time information, we recommend connecting with our team members early and often. Carrier is dedicated to its customers and can work with schools to choose the right solutions to meet their needs.

  1. USGBC School Facilities Funding During The Pandemic ESSER III

Best practices for applying for ESSER include appropriate vendor timelines and costs, funding and liquidation timelines, products, and services available, and feasibility to optimize application.

  • Receive Vendor Quotes Early and Often: Vendor quotes and timeline are critical to understand early-on and throughout project execution due to their high impact on project feasibility. For example, Albuquerque Public Schools noted that “original quote for [a broken coil] and labor was $5,100…it had more than tripled to $18,500” as part of a $28M IAQ project funded by ESSER III.1 As the industry prepares through unprecedented volume following a pandemic, supply chain challenges affect product lead times and costs.
  • Meet ESSER Spend Obligation and Liquidation Dates: Obligation dates are the final dates for when planned spend must be approved or obligated toward a specific purpose, while liquidation dates are when funds must be spent, often meaning that products or services are received. Deadlines differ by fund type as well, ESSER I requires liquidation up to 18 months after approval, while ESSER II and III require liquidation up to 4 months (120 days) after approval.2,3
  • Plan For Total Solution & Assess Long-Term Feasibility: It’s important to plan holistically for use of ESSER funded projects by considering both short-term and long-term implications and feasibility. In addition to original equipment, it is critical to include any training costs, installation costs, and ongoing labor costs needed to operate the solution effectively.
  • Pursue Multiple Outcomes Simultaneously: While ESSER funding is focused on indoor air quality (IAQ), Carrier recommends that schools optimize for IAQ and energy efficiency simultaneously to maximize investment benefits. Focusing only on IAQ can increase energy consumption for enhanced ventilation, but with the right solutions selected the school can achieve both healthy and sustainability outcomes.
  • Enable Reporting: ESSER and other funding sources can come with outcome reporting stipulations attached to the funds. Selecting solutions that streamline reporting can help reduce the burden on schools long-term when they report out to school boards, teachers, parents, and government agencies. Solutions that can support recording and reporting outcomes can also help schools monitor ongoing performance and enable real-time corrective actions when performance falls out of approved ranges.

  1. USGBC School Facilities Funding During The Pandemic ESSER III
  2. ESSER & GEER Use of Funds FAQs December 2022
  3. ESSER Funding Update: Dept. of Education Clarifies ESSER