BOSTON (SHNS) – More than half of the roughly $2.6 billion in emergency education aid the federal government steered to Massachusetts during the pandemic remains unspent, according to a top Department of Elementary and Secondary Education official.

DESE Chief Financial Officer Bill Bell told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday that “plenty of federal money” is still uncommitted and ready to be used with deadlines approaching this fall and next fall. The federal government awarded tranches of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) aid in three rounds.

The first batch of about $215 million, deployed via the March 2020 CARES Act, has been fully expended, Bell said. In December 2020, a second round of ESSER awards made $740 million in grants available to Massachusetts districts. Bell said about 71 percent of that money has been used so far ahead of the Sept. 30, 2023 deadline. The third and largest pot of money, $1.7 billion authorized in April 2021, must be used by Sept. 30, 2024.

Bell told board members districts have used about 25 percent of that. The new numbers show about $214 million from ESSER’s second round and another $1.27 billion from the third round is still untapped amid ongoing debate atop Beacon Hill about increasing state funding for K-12 districts.

“One of the things we know, particularly in the ESSER [round] three funds, is districts are availing themselves of the use of funds for maintenance provisions, school-related costs, that to some extent they don’t spend right away,” Bell said. “It takes a little bit to get the work done. So we think there’s a little bit of a lag there as it relates to utilization of the funding. It’s not like going and paying for a new curriculum. If you’re paying for an HVAC improvement, it might be a two- or three- or four-month lag.” “I still think we feel good about where we stand with all of that, but there’s still plenty of federal money to be utilizing and spending,” he added.