AUGUSTA – The U.S. Department of Education has set a Sept. 9 deadline for states to apply for their share of $10 billion in federal money that’s meant to stave off teacher layoffs.

Maine plans to act in advance of that deadline to claim the $39 million headed its way, a spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci said Friday.

“We’re moving as quickly as we can, but this is complicated stuff,” said David Farmer, Baldacci’s deputy chief of staff. “We want to make sure we know what we’re doing before we put in the application.”

In addition to setting the application deadline, the Department of Education released guidance to states Friday for how they can use the federal funds package, which President Obama signed into law Wednesday.

In a letter to governors, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the funds could be used to pay the salaries and benefits of employees who have contact with students.

School districts can recall laid-off employees, hire new employees and cover the salaries of current employees “to ensure that students receive vital educational and related services,” Duncan wrote.

The money can’t be used to cover central office administrative salaries or other overhead.

Duncan said the Department of Education will send funds to states within two weeks of receiving their applications.

“We’re to the point where the school year’s about to begin, so we want to move as quickly as possible,” Farmer said.

Before Maine submits its application, Baldacci must decide how to dole that money out to school districts. The state can distribute it through its standard funding formula or through the federal Title I formula, which awards money to schools based largely on the percentage of students in poverty.

Baldacci has yet to make that decision, Farmer said.

The Department of Education estimates that the $39 million for Maine can fund 700 jobs. Nationwide, the $10 billion package can save 160,000 positions, the department says.

Maine Education Association President Chris Galgay urged school districts to act quickly to fill positions they might have cut in recent months.

“You can’t make an assumption that they’d automatically be laid off next year,” he said. “Even if it’s just for one year, they’re still working.”