ESSER Funded Construction
ESSER Funded Construction Activity Approval Process
Given the complexity of completing construction projects using Federal assistance funds, the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE) has developed the following two-step process for approving Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER I, ESSER II and ARP-ESSER) funded projects proposed by Districts. By implementing this two-step process, the NHDOE anticipates providing Districts clarity as to the allowability of any proposed construction, and technical assistance relative to both Federal procurement requirements and design construction phase obligations.
While the NHDOE has made significant progress with the U.S. Department of Education to reduce the regulatory process related to construction projects, a number of compliance requirements remain that Districts should pay close attention to. In addition, we encourage Districts to continue to recognize the difference between a project’s eligibility and compliance with these regulatory requirements.
Step 1. Conceptual Project Approval
As a pass-through entity for Federal education funds, the NHDOE is charged with determining if a proposed construction project is allowable, necessary and reasonable in accordance with the specific ESSER program requirements as well as under the broader requirements of the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR).
To this end, the District shall follow the following steps when seeking conceptual approval of a construction project.
- The District shall complete a Request for Conceptual Approval of ESSER Funded Construction Project form and submit the completed form to the NHDOE’s Bureau of Federal Compliance (BFC) at ESSER.email@example.com. Following review of the form by the NHDOE, the District will be contacted to schedule a meeting (in-person or remote) to discuss the scope of the proposed project. Please be prepared to explain the relationship of the proposed project in meeting the ESSER fund requirements of being clearly related to preventing, preparing for, and/or responding to COVID-19. Any draft plans, schematics, studies, etc. that the District can provide would be helpful in facilitating the final allowability determination. The District may invite any supporting professionals (architects, engineers, facility managers, etc. to the meeting) it may deem necessary to assist in its explanation of how the proposed project meets the requirement of preventing, preparing for, and/or responding to COVID-19 . The District is cautioned; however, that the expense of any such support is not considered an approved grant project cost unless prior written approval was obtained through the Grants Management System (GMS) process by the NHDOE.
- Following the completion of the above meeting, and any additional follow-up discussions, the District will be notified by the NHDOE in writing that the project has been granted the status of “Conceptual Approval”. The NHDOE will work with the District to develop appropriate language that clearly defines what parts of the proposed project are considered allowable and those that are not considered allowable (if any).
- Once the District’s proposed construction activity is granted the status of “Conceptual Approval” in writing by the NHDOE, the District may proceed to Step 2.
Step 2. Project Design
- In completing the project design and construction documents, the District shall meet the requirements of 34 CFR 75.601 through 34 CFR 75.618 as applicable. The District shall complete the Request for Final Approval of ESSER Funded Construction Project form that will assist the District in understanding and fulfilling these requirements.
- Following the review of the Request for Final Approval of ESSER Funded Construction Project document as prepared by the District, and any required supporting documentation, the NHDOE will either approve or disapprove the application.
If the District receives written final approval of their project, the District will create an activity for the project in the GMS and upload the following:
- Request for Conceptual Eligibility Approval of ESSER Funded Construction Project;
- NHDOE’s written conceptual eligibility approval correspondence back to the District;
- Request for Final Approval of ESSER Funded Construction Project;
- New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources Request for Project Review; and
- Its submission to the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Once the documents are all uploaded in to the GMS, the NHDOE will then grant the project final approval through GMS. The District may then move forward with bidding the construction project, or simply move the project forward if a non-competitive procurement process was utilized.
If the application is not approved, the District has the option of continuing to work with the NHDOE to provide additional information, which may lead to approval, or to request a hearing in accordance with 34 CFR 76.401. Should the District request a hearing, the NHDOE will provide written guidance as to the hearing process.
- As it proceeds with the project, the District should be aware that it must meet all Federal compliance requirements related to vendor contract language, procurement, prevailing wages (Davis-Bacon), etc. The District is further reminded that it must meet all State laws pertaining to construction involving school facilities. The NHDOE is available to assist the District with understanding its obligations relative to Federal compliance related to ESSER funded construction projects.
ESSER Construction, Part 1
Date: June 17, 2021 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
This meeting was held via Zoom
ESSER Construction, Part 2 (application process)
Date: July 7, 2021 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
This meeting was held via Zoom