U.S. Education Department awards Puerto Rico $589 million in disaster assistance
SAN JUAN – U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Friday a total of approximately $693 million in new federal assistance under the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations (K-12 Restart) program.
The awards are the first in a “multi-phased process designed to provide prompt initial funding while offering subsequent opportunities for eligible States to seek additional assistance through future applications,” according to a release.
Under the K-12 Restart program, the department is authorized to award funds to state educational agencies (SEAs) with students and schools impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the 2017 California wildfires. These SEAs, in turn, provide assistance or services to local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools and private schools, “to help defray expenses related to restarting school operations and restoring the normal learning environment for students and families affected by the hurricanes and wildfires.”
The department has made initial awards to the first three SEAs that applied for assistance in the following amounts:
- California Department of Education (CDE): $14,396,317
- Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE): $589,170,000
- Texas Education Agency (TEA): $89,420,000
Award amounts were developed based on information provided by the SEAs in their applications, including the number of schools affected as a result of a covered disaster or emergency and how long they were closed.
“This economic injection by the federal government will be key in the recovery process for the Department of Education. It will benefit that both teachers, students and non-teaching staff can fully restore normality to teaching in the education system,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said after speaking over the phone with De Vos, according to a release issued by his office.
“Multiple officials have devoted endless hours of their time to the Department of Education in a genuine attempt to understand the needs and realities of the Puerto Rican education system. The creation of new grant programs is a difficult task and the federal Department of Education should be applauded for the speed with which it has been able to make this much-needed funding available.
“The leadership and commitment of Secretary DeVos to support school systems impacted by disasters has made all the difference. I am sure that, as a result of Restart funds, the Puerto Rico Department of Education will be able to return our students to a normal learning environment,” Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher added.
Congress appropriated a combined amount of approximately $2.5 billion for both the Restart and Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students (K-12 Displaced Students) programs. “The amounts awarded under each program will be based on demand and specific data received from eligible applicants,” the department explains.
“This additional funding will ensure students, teachers and staff have ongoing access to the services they need to fully recover and rebuild,” DeVos says in her office’s release.