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SC after-school programs doubling down on ESSER funds

Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 4:32 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2022 at 6:56 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Education is pumping millions of dollars into after-school programs around the state.

In a press release, the department says it’s partnering with South Carolina Afterschool Alliance to disperse $14.5 million of ESSER money to programs across South Carolina.

SCAA is the hub for after-school programs that give parents easy access to individual programs, large and small. In Charleston County, there are 92 partner programs listed on its website, including groups like Communities in Schools, Wings for Kids and Kaleidoscope.

“We partnered with the superintendent and the department of education to develop a plan to identify and fund evidence based-program in underserved areas to address the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on students through after-school and summer programs,” SCAA CEO and President Zelda Waymer.

SCAA has already picked which programs will receive an allocation and how much that allocation will be, however, they have not yet disclosed that information. Waymer says they received more than 200 applications for funding and expects that money will be sent out in the next two to three weeks.

“One of the requirements for our grant was the fact that you cannot have additional federal dollars to implement the same program,” Waymer said. “So with these funds, they have to be implemented without any other ESSER funds or federal support financially.”

However, some of these programs are part of the same organizations requesting ESSER III funds on the local level as well. Four Rivers Outreach After School Program, for example, is listed as one of the SCAA partner programs.  President of Four Rivers Outreach Dr. Wilton Stewart says they received a grant from SCAA to run its Adventure Summer Camp program.

They have also submitted a request to CCSD to receive $359,000 in ESSER III money to run its Spring and Fall 2022 After-School program.

Eleanor Hardy, who runs the program, says ESSER money is a lifeline for supporting and growing their tutoring and mentoring program. She says the funding helps offset the cost to parents and is important for getting students caught up.

“On a scale of one to 10, it’s an 11,” Hardy said. “Because we work with students who are behind, it’s going to be very difficult if we do not get some help. Our parents, most of the time do pay. We try not to make it not so high that it’s out of their reach.”

Many nonprofit organizations are hoping to scoop up as much funding as they can through ESSER and other COVID-relief funds. SCAA says they did not choose any programs that are already being awarded federal dollars, but CCSD has not yet picked which organizations it plans to fund.

State ESSER funding does not preclude an organization or program from receiving local ESSER funds as long as the funding is not supporting the exact same function, according to the Charleston County School District.

For example, the state could give an organization money to expand its after-school program in some schools, and the district could give the same organization money to expand in different schools.

Other programs that have requested ESSER III funds from CCSD and are also SCAA partners include: Wings for Kids, Communities in Schools, Kids on Point, Yes I Can After School Program and Youth Empowerment Services (YES) Beyond Measure Mentoring Program.

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