FOX 35 INVESTIGATES: Federal coronavirus relief money for schools

It's no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for students, teachers, and staff at schools across Florida.

"To say it has been hard is probably an understatement. It has been the greatest challenge I have had in my career," said Michael Carter, the superintendent of the Lake County School District No. 7.

Florida schools received about $700 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES)  Act money. Carter said his district received over $9 million in federal relief. 

 "We have no problems spending it to keep the regulations and rules and everyone safe," he explained. "We are constantly refining our system. For the first time, our district has one-on-one technology. We did not have the money or the means to do that, the resources. Now we have it." 

A FOX 35 investigation found that schools are using CARES money for things like laptops, hotspots, and iPads. It's also paying for extra staffing in school clinics, COVID testing, education programs, and personal protection equipment (PPE), and cleaning equipment.

Orange County received over $55 million in federal pandemic relief money for schools, Brevard County got over $17 million, and Osceola, Volusia, and Marion each received over $15 million.  As of last week, Brevard County Public Schools said they have spent over half of their CARES money.

"The money is helpful, and at the same time, we are being responsible with it. Yes, we spent 54% of the money. That is because we have been responsible.  It is not meant to fill gaps," said Russell Bruhn, a school spokesman.

There is also another round of CARES funding worth $2.8 billion. Most school districts said they have not touched that money yet.


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