RLIS Hold Harmless

RLIS Hold Harmless Eligibility

Impact of the Hold Harmless Provision on RLIS Eligibility in Fiscal Years 2021 through 2027 

See below for a letter from the REAP Team sent to REAP State Coordinators on February 3, 2021.

Dear State Coordinator:

This letter addresses eligibility requirements for local educational agencies (LEAs) for fiscal years (FYs) 2021 through 2027 under the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program given the hold harmless provision included in the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2021 (Act), which became law on December 27, 2020.

As is the case each year, under section 5221(b)(1) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), an LEA is eligible for an RLIS grant if (1) twenty percent or more of the children ages 5 through 17 served by the LEA are from families below the poverty line, as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) data or, for an LEA for which SAIPE data are unavailable, the same State-derived equivalent of SAIPE data that the State uses to make allocations under Part A of Title I of the ESEA and (2) it is rural based on the statutory criteria described in ESEA section 5221(b).

Starting in FY 2021, in accordance with a “hold harmless” provision in  section 316(a) of the Act, when making RLIS awards in FYs 2021 through 2027,  the U.S. Department of Education (Department) must also consider as eligible for an RLIS grant an LEA that does not meet the eligibility requirements in ESEA section 5221(b)(1)  but (1) received an RLIS grant in FY 2019 on the basis of alternative poverty data submitted by the State, (2) had a service area in which less than 20 percent of children ages 5 through 17 were from families with incomes below the poverty line, as determined by SAIPE data in FY 2019, and (3) meets the rural eligibility criteria described in section 5221(b) of the ESEA for the fiscal year for which the current eligibility determination is being made.

The Department has determined that 198 LEAs across the nation received an RLIS grant in FY 2019 on the basis of alternative poverty data submitted by the State and had a service area in which less than 20 percent of children ages 5 through 17 were from families with incomes below the poverty line, as determined by SAIPE data in FY 2019 (i.e., there are up to 198 LEAs that fall under the hold harmless provision each year).  A list of the 198 LEAs is available on the hold harmless (HH) tab of the Master Eligibility Spreadsheet (MES) available on the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) website at this link.  Each of these LEAs will be eligible to receive an RLIS award under the hold harmless provision each FY with two exceptions.  First, if, in a given FY, an LEA meets the eligibility criteria in ESEA section 5221(b)(1), the LEA will be eligible for the full amount of its award (i.e., its eligibility for that FY will not be based on the hold harmless provision but instead will be based on ESEA section 5221(b)(1)).  Second, if an LEA does not meet the statutory criteria to be considered “rural” in a FY, it will not be eligible to receive an RLIS award under the hold harmless provision for that FY.

In each of the years included in the hold harmless period, an LEA that receives an award under the hold harmless provision will receive no more than the respective percent of the RLIS award amount the LEA received in FY 2019, as indicated in the chart below:

Fiscal Year Hold Harmless Percentage- based on the LEA’s FY 2019 award amount
2021 100%
2022 100%
2023 83.33%
2024 66.67%
2025 50%
2026 33.33%
2027 16.67%

To determine the RLIS allocation for each State, the Department determines whether each LEA in each State is eligible for RLIS and the estimated amount of each LEA’s award, which, beginning with the Department’s FY 2021 allocation process, will take into account, for an LEA eligible under the hold harmless provision, the award amount percentages included in the chart above.  The FY 2021 MES on the REAP website provides initial information related to FY 2021 awards.  Column N on the “HH” tab on the MES notes whether an LEA is eligible under either the eligibility criteria described in the ESEA (designated as “RLIS”) or the hold harmless provision (designated as “HH”).  The RLIS estimated allocation for each LEA is available in Column P on the “Eligibility-All LEAs” tab.

If you have any questions about RLIS eligibility, please contact the REAP team at REAP@ed.gov or 202-401-0039.

Sincerely,

Leslie Poynter Group Leader, Rural Education Achievement Program

Last Modified: 02/04/2021