$150 Million to be Released for Additional Air Filtration System Upgrades in Connecticut Public Schools

Governor Ned Lamont announced on Wednesday that his administration is releasing $150 million toward a newly established state grant program dedicated to supporting upgrades for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in Connecticut public schools.

The grants will supplement more than $165 million that schools have already committed for air filtration improvements since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through funding they received from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.

The governor said that he is creating the state grant program to ensure that schools have a dedicated source of funding to support additional infrastructure upgrades, noting that the pandemic exposed a significant need to have modernized air filtration units in schools.

“One thing the COVID-19 pandemic showed is that many school buildings in our state, particularly those that are of a certain age, are in serious need of air quality improvements,” Governor Lamont said in a release. “Modernized ventilation systems provide an important public health function that filtrate the air and reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Most importantly, these air filtration systems will help ensure that our students can continue receiving their education in-person, in the classroom, where they learn best. Over the last two years, school districts in Connecticut have invested more than $165 million in COVID-relief funding to make these kinds of air quality improvements, and by creating a state program dedicated to these upgrades, we can continue providing schools with additional funding to implement these much-needed infrastructure enhancements.”

The Connecticut Public Schools HVAC/Indoor Air Quality Grant Program is being administered by the Office of School Construction Grants and Review, an office within the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services. It was created in collaboration with the Connecticut State Department of Education, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Governor Lamont proposed creating this grant program earlier this year as part of his state budget proposal, and it later received approval from the General Assembly. The initial $150 million allocation is being supported through two revenue streams, with $75 million coming from state bond funding and the remainder from the state’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The governor stressed that this initial allocation is a first investment in the program, and additional rounds of funding can be invested as needed, subject to approval from the state legislature.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to upgrade HVAC systems in schools across the state, especially in older school buildings that are long-overdue for improvements,” the members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation said in a joint statement.

“Outdated ventilation systems put students and staff at a greater risk of exposure to harmful viruses and other contaminants. We are thrilled to see this allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the health and safety of students and teachers and will continue to fight for funding to support upgrading the infrastructure of Connecticut’s schools.”

Applications from school districts are now being accepted and must be submitted to the state by December 1, 2022. Municipalities will be required to provide matching grants to fund the project costs. Award notices will be announced in early 2023.

Examples of eligible projects include:

  • Replacing, upgrading, or repairing boilers and other heating and ventilation components;
  • Replacing controls and technology systems related to HVAC operations;
  • Installing or upgrading air conditioning or ventilation systems; and
  • Other similar work approved by the commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.

Distribution of the grants will be prioritized based on:

  • Age and condition of the current HVAC system or equipment being replaced or upgraded in the school;
  • Current air quality issues at the school;
  • Age and condition of the overall school building;
  • School district’s master plan;
  • Availability of maintenance records;
  • A contract or plans for the routine maintenance and cleaning of the HVAC system; and
  • The local or regional board of education’s or regional educational service center’s ability to finance the remainder of the costs for such project after receiving a grant under the program.