Using ESSER funds to cover social media archiving and risk management

Having a social media archiving tool is critically important for educational agencies to be in compliance with most state records laws. And yet it rarely receives a line item in school budgets. Many schools saw increased engagement online – both positive and negative – during the pandemic, escalating the need for social media management tools like ArchiveSocial. If you need help fitting this technology into your budget, consider using the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund).

What are ESSER funds?

Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the ESSER Fund. These relief funds have been awarded to State educational agencies (SEAs) for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that are LEAs, to address the impact COVID-19 had and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools.

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA) was signed into law in December 2020 and provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund). ESSER II Fund awards are available for obligation by SEAs and subrecipients through September 30, 2022, and can be applied to costs dating back to March 13, 2020, when the national emergency was declared.

The American Rescue Plan Act, passed on March 11, 2021, provided an additional $122.7 billion in supplemental ESSER funding, known as the ESSER III fund. These funds were provided to state educational agencies and school districts to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students. With fewer restrictions on how they can be used, these funds can be applied more broadly to school needs, like ensuring a secure and compliant online presence. The deadline for this funding is September 30, 2023.

What are the requirements for using ESSER funds?

1. The expense is connected to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Schools still rely on social media to share essential information and updates around COVID-19. They’ve also often found themselves having to moderate or correct misinformation posted by others. Schools must archive these communications in full context.

2. The expense is necessary.

In all 50 states, content on social media can be considered a public record, and public agencies like schools have an obligation to comply with open records laws. This includes not only content they post, but also content constituents create through their comments. A system that captures all content and meta-data is the only way of ensuring compliance.

3. The expense is not fulfilling a shortfall in government revenues.

ArchiveSocial is a risk management and compliance tool. It ensures compliance with public record laws and mitigates issues around record requests. It is not replacing any government revenue.

4. The expense was not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020.

If ArchiveSocial was not included in budgets before the national emergency was declared, it can be considered as a potential use of ESSER funds.

5. The expense wouldn’t exist without COVID-19 OR would be for a “substantially different” purpose.

To disseminate accurate and up-to-date information in a constantly evolving situation, social media became essential to reach citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media as a primary communication channel, along with an archiving and alerting solution like ArchiveSocial, saves agencies time and valuable resources. It also ensures compliance with public record law during this period of increased social media postings and comments.

A breakdown of how funds from the American Rescue Plan are allocated

A breakdown of how funds from the American Rescue Plan are allocated

Who can apply for ESSER funds?

Only state educational agencies (SEAs) can apply directly for funding, which can then be distributed as subgrants. If you represent a local educational agency, get in touch with your SEA to find out more about their process for allocating subgrants. See how much has been allocated to your state so far.

If you represent an SEA and want to learn more about ESSER applications and resources, visit the Department of Education’s general page and additional resources for ARP funding.

Archive social media and mitigate risk

Archiving social media content is an important part of being compliant with your state records laws. With ArchiveSocial’s tool, setup is easy. It usually takes less than five minutes to start storing your records in near-real-time and ensure compliance with retention requirements.

ArchiveSocial makes content searchable, so it’s easy to find relevant content when schools receive a records request. And with comprehensive capture, we’re able to save social media comments even if they’ve been edited, deleted, or hidden. So all you have to do is download the exact content (with its metadata) you need, whenever you need it.

Remote learning drove up online interaction with students, parents, and community members on social media. Products like Web Snapshots and Risk Management & Analytics (RMA) help school districts increase compliance and mitigate risk. The RMA application provides customizable social media monitoring and alerting tools with robust reporting to increase control, responsiveness, and insight across social media accounts.

ESSER justification for RMA

The pandemic created more than physical health problems in our school communities. Children and teens were facing an unprecedented situation – remote instruction and social distancing made some students feel isolated and depressed. According to the CDC, youth suicide attempts rose sharply during the pandemic. Signs of distress can sometimes be identified through social media posts, and schools want to help their students if they can. ArchiveSocial’s RMA application alerts users when inappropriate images or flagged keywords appear on any of a school’s managed social media pages.

Schools can set custom keywords or keywords from a predefined dictionary related to cyberbullying and suicide prevention and receive real-time alerts. The system will also detect fuzzy matches across plural spellings and word conjugations, so the match doesn’t have to be exact. RMA also sends real-time alerts for inappropriate images that appear on your pages, including but not limited to explicit, suggestive, violent, and visually disturbing images.

Besides responding to potentially harmful content, schools can also use RMA to proactively monitor student sentiment, engagement levels, and platform usage over time with six built-in reports in addition to two base reports.

If you want to learn more about the technology and benefits of using ArchiveSocial to ensure compliance and mitigate risk for your school or school district, check out our solution overview or request a demo.

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Optimere Digital Solutions

Streamline records requests from start to finish with Optimere’s request management product, NextRequest. NextRequest is a leading provider of automation and workflow technology that simplifies how government agencies manage and reduce the risks associated with public records requests.

We also know that compliance goes beyond recordkeeping. Optimere’s web governance product Monsido offers tools for web accessibility, website quality assurance, brand and content compliance, user consent management, social and web content archiving, and more.