Schools across the country are set to receive billions of dollars — and some new guidance — to help meet the needs of students with disabilities amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Education said that it has sent more than $3 billion to states to support students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The funding comes as part of the American Rescue Plan, a massive government pandemic relief package approved in March.

“We know that COVID-19 and disruptions in access to in-person learning over the last year have taken a disproportionate toll on America’s children with disabilities, who, far too often amid the pandemic, experienced challenges in receiving the services and supports that they were entitled to,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “With these crucial American Rescue Plan funds, our early intervention providers and schools will be better able to address the needs of infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and ensure our education system reemerges even stronger than before the pandemic.”

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Most of the money — $2.6 billion — will go toward special education programs for those ages 3 to 21 while $200 million will be tagged for preschool offerings for children with disabilities ages 3 to 5 and $250 million will be allocated for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.

Generally speaking, the extra money can be used in much the same way as any other IDEA funds, the Education Department said.

In addition to funding, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten said recently that guidance will be coming by the end of the summer tackling the “unique challenges and opportunities in reopening for students with disabilities.”

“It will address some of the most pressing needs and the concerns elevated by families, advocates and educators to provide clarity and direction and attention to this community,” Marten said during an Education Department Equity Summit in June.

The guidance, she added, will be “centered on the lived experience of students who may have experienced the most significant loss in instruction, services and community connection during the pandemic.”

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