Student mental health and well-being is top of mind. Here’s how to fund it.

Student mental health and well-being is top of mind.

More than two years into a global health crisis, today’s students face unprecedented social, emotional and mental health challenges. It’s an uphill battle — and budgets are tight.

Use these 3 primary funding resources to help fund your next social-emotional learning (SEL) initiative.

Federal programs

For U.S.-based schools

In the wake of the global pandemic, the U.S. government made more than $122B available to K-12 schools to close learning gaps and boost SEL.

Learn more

State programs

For U.S.-based schools

In addition to CARES funds, your school or district might also be eligible to participate in a lesser-known state-funding program.

Learn more

Private grants

Federal and state programs aren’t the only sources of SEL dollars. Private foundation grants are a great way to close funding gaps.

Learn more

Federal programs

Title funds

Title funds are federal dollars that are meant to supplement, but not replace existing state education funding. The federal government releases these funds yearly; State Educational Agencies (SEAs) and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) then allocate a percentage to individual schools and districts.

U.S. schools can use Title 1 and Title 4 funding to pay for moozoom.

Title 1 usage is based on the makeup of your student body. If 40% or more of your school’s students come from low-income families, Title I funds must be used on school-wide initiatives, such as moozoom.

Title 4 funding emphasizes STEAM, social-emotional learning, and digital learning experiences, each of which are points of emphasis with moozoom.

In addition, parts of Title VI can be used to pay for moozoom.

Title VI, Part B, Subpart 1 — Small, Rural School Grant Program Title VI, Part B, Subpart 2 — Rural and Low-Income School Program

Federal Programs coins

CARES Act (ESSER I), CRRSAA (ESSER II) and the American Rescue Plan (ESSER III)

In an effort to help schools close learning gaps forced wider by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government has made an unprecedented amount of money available to K-12 schools, primarily through three programs: CARES Act (ESSER I), CRRSAA (ESSER II) and the American Rescue Plan (ESSER III).

(Source: Office of Elementary & Secondary Education, 2022)

Funding formula: Distributed based on the state’s level of Title I, Part A funding. States must allocate 90% of the funds to districts.



Signed into law in March 2020, ESSER I funds were initially intended to support the move to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Districts were required to apply for these funds through their state department of education. The spending deadline is Sept. 30, 2022.

What to do: Check with your district funding office to determine if unallocated ESSER I funds remain. Ask if they can be used for SEL resources.



Signed into law in Dec. 2020, ESSER II funds were intended to support student mental health and learning outcomes during and after the pandemic. The funds were supposed to be fully allocated to states by Jan. 2022. Districts are not required to spend the funds until Sept. 2022.

What to do: Check with your district funding office to determine if and how much of its allocation is currently available for SEL.

American Rescue Plan (ESSER III)


Signed into law in March 2021, ESSER III further supports academics, mental health and SEL. No less than 20% of these funds must be used to “address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions.”

What to do: Check with your district funding office to determine if and how much of its allocation is currently available for SEL.

Can I use ESSER funds for SEL?

Yes! In fact, the U.S. government encourages districts to do so.

Here’s an excerpt from a strategy guide about how to spend ESSER funds published by the U.S. Department of Education in August 2021.

Read the excerpt

An LEA may use ESSER funds to provide mental health services and supports for students and their families, teachers, and LEA staff who are experiencing COVID-19 pandemic-related trauma, including students who were experiencing trauma prior to the pandemic that may have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Funds may also be used to provide professional development and training that increase awareness of mental health literacy for teachers and staff. Many schools already implementing multitiered supports may integrate mental health strategies and interventions into these existing systems. LEAs may also use the funds to hire additional school psychologists and counselors to provide the services or to contract for such services for students, educators, and other district staff. ESSER and GEER funds may also be used to provide student and educator access to online counseling services and other mental health supports. Funds may be used to provide resources and information to students and families to provide a greater understanding of mental health and address any stigma associated with mental health that may be a barrier to accessing services even when available. As an additional approach to responding to the mental health crisis, for example, schools and districts can use ARP ESSER funds to support or implement multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) frameworks that support school communities and integrate social and emotional learning into the school day. The Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports’ abbreviated district guide describes the use of an MTSS framework, like positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), to design classrooms and schools in a manner that provides effective, efficient, and relevant supports to all students, families, and educators during and after a crisis.

How much ESSER money is available?

View your state ESSER allocation by district

State programs

In the U.S., federal funds are, of course, only one part of the broader funding picture. Schools looking to invest in SEL supports for students and teachers should also look closely at state-specific programs, such as the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) and others.

(Source: Office of Elementary & Secondary Education, 2022)

On the map: State by state breakdown

You can view the amount of money your state was slated to receive through the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund here.

Funding Map

Pro tip

If not spent, these funds are to be returned to the fund and reallocated amongst the remaining participating states. A recent report by Education Week suggests the majority of these funds have not been spent and still might be available.

(You can read the full article here.)

Recommended Action

Check with your district office.

Program analysis

The Education Commission of the States, a commission that serves the needs of U.S, state policy-makers, recently produced a report detailing available state funding for student mental health.

Here’s an excerpt: “As state leaders continue to gain an understanding of the impact that student mental health can have on educational outcomes, they are considering policies to promote the mental wellness of all students. Recently enacted state policies have been primarily focused on incorporating mental health and wellness into health education curricula, encouraging or requiring school staff training and professional development on issues related to student mental health, and improving school-based services and supports.”

Read the full report, including funding opportunities available in your state, here.

Private programs

Federal and state funding can provide significant support to help get your SEL programs off the ground. But many of these programs represent one-time-only opportunities. To sustain your SEL programs or increase the investment, your district might also consider applying for private grants.

Here are several to consider:

NEA Foundation Student Success Grants:

Two levels of funding to grant activities for 12 months. Applicants must be members of the National Education Association.

Learn more

Project AWARE State Education Agency Grants:

Project AWARE helps schools build capacity for mental health programs and services

Learn more

This relatively new resource allows education donors to choose how their monies are spent. Several options exist for SEL.

Learn more

Fundsnet Services:

This site features a massive running list of corporate and nonprofit funding programs that could be used to fund SEL.

Learn more

U.S. Federal Grants Database:

If you’ve looked for U.S.-based grants in the past, you probably have this page bookmarked. Go here to search the nation’s largest grant database for opportunities to supper SEL in your schools.

Learn more

Fund for Teachers:

This organization allows PreK-12 teachers to “pursue self-designed professional learning experiences.” You can apply by submitting detailed descriptions of proposed fellowships. Awards of up to $5,000 are made to individuals and up to $10,000 for educator teams.

Learn more

The Awesome Foundation:

A global community advancing the “interest of awesome” in the universe, $1,000 at a time. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly.

Learn more
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