Michigan schools are receiving billions of dollars of federal aid, the largest single infusion of cash ever, and have spent millions already. School leaders say the money will help more students return to classrooms and ease the academic and emotional burdens the pandemic has placed on students and staff.

Statewide, schools have already spent tens of millions of dollars to purchase computers and upgrade building ventilation, but most of the federal aid hasn’t yet reached districts.

Districts are on track to receive three rounds of federal funding, each larger than the next. In total, Michigan districts will directly receive more than $5 billion, plus additional aid distributed by the state. The funds are being allocated using the same formula as Title IA, a civil rights-era program designed to support low-income communities.

Political leaders in Michigan clashed over distributing the second round of funds. Republican lawmakers have refused to allocate all of the money unless Gov. Gretchen Whitmer accepts limits on her pandemic powers, which she is refusing to do. The state has parceled out less than half of that round to school districts so far.

While there’s no sign that the political standoff will end, observers say it’s only a matter of time before all of the funds are distributed.

Districts have broad discretion to spend the money, and the coming months will be a crucial planning period as many districts finalize their annual budgets. Acceptable uses include addressing learning loss, offering summer school and after-school programs, supporting students from low-income families, and improving air quality in schools.

Federal officials made clear that the relief funds should be used to help schools offer face-to-face instruction to any student that wants it. Most schools in the state had already reached that goal this month, although some have closed their doors temporarily amid Michigan’s worst-in-the-nation spike in coronavirus cases.

Read the full article about funding for school districts during the pandemic by Koby Levin and Jessica Villagomez at Chalkbeat Detroit.