Why Cooperative Contracts & ESSER Funds are a Perfect Match
The pandemic resulted in several federal funding grants becoming available to different groups. In this article, we explore the benefits of leveraging them through CompareCoOps.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a handful of federal funding grants becoming available to different entities. These funds, collectively known as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, are available to assist schools with preventing, preparing for, and responding to the threats presented by the pandemic.
These funds are aimed at keeping our children, teachers, and school staff safe at this crucial moment. That level of importance is exactly why the funds must be used as efficiently as possible. When it comes to federal funding, it’s hard to get more efficient than cooperative contracts. Let’s take a look at ESSER funds and why they’re such a perfect match for cooperative purchasing.
Who Gets to Leverage ESSER Funds for What?
State Education Agencies (SEAs) across all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico are eligible to apply to the Department for ESSER Funds. Each Local Education Agency (LEA) must apply to its relevant SEA. Using federal funds like ESSER and others requires agencies to meet Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR).
There is a wide range of categories these funds can be used for and a large portion will go towards items that can be purchased through cooperative contracts, like technology for online learning, sanitation, safety/air/water quality-related facilities repairs and upgrades, safety training, and more.
Why Are Cooperative Contracts a Perfect Match for ESSER Funds?
Obviously, maximizing the potential of your federal funding should be one of your main priorities. Using cooperative contracts allows districts to compare already competitively bid contracts and with the added benefit of often being able to negotiate better pricing. CompareCoOps makes cost savings even easier for districts looking to leverage cooperative purchasing for their ESSER funding—independently audited data has shown that our public agency users have enjoyed cost savings of 9.74%.
Cooperative contracts offer schools and districts the chance to work together to get better pricing. Thanks to some of the commonalities between school needs across local, state, and national districts, schools can all order from the same supplier or contract, giving them more leverage on pricing. This is one of the great benefits of cooperative contracts in general.
“Office supplies, IT supplies, janitorial supplies,” said Marcheta Gillespie, former director of procurement for the city of Tucson in a publication by The Harvard Kennedy School,“ those items have been contracted for on such a wide basis that it becomes illogical for any locality to do so because you’re not going to get better pricing.”
In many cases, larger volumes allow for better positions for negotiation. The Houston Independent School District’s Richard Gay mentioned receiving, “Tiers of savings” using cooperative purchasing. “Such that if we met certain benchmarks, we got more discounts. When my school district joined we sent the quantities up two tiers, so we earned discounts and we helped the other members earn discounts as well.” When schools work together to get the best prices on their ESSER funding needs, everyone wins.
It’s also no secret that many of those tasked with procurement have a lot on their plate. In many cases, procurement is just a small aspect of their week-to-week workload. Cooperative contracts are often already competitively bid, allowing agencies to “piggyback” on them and save time and money in the process. CompareCoOps makes the process of obtaining and comparing quotes from suppliers extremely simple.
Another important factor is that guidelines for using cooperative purchasing for federal funding vary by state and still have federal regulations to consider. Remaining compliant is extremely important for schools utilizing ESSER funds. That’s another area where CompareCoOps can be a huge help. Using our built-in templates, mandatory questions and evaluation tools, everything is tracked and saved in an electronic audit report.
ESSER funds have been a huge lift to schools looking to create the safest environments possible for their students at this crucial time. Safety is obviously paramount in times like these, and finding ways to get the most out of ESSER funding through cooperative purchasing can help schools bring that safety to the next level.