U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the assistance as part of a $693 million package that will also help schools in Texas, hit hard by hurricanes in 2017, and California, where many campuses were damaged by wildfires.
“As communities get back on their feet in disaster affected regions, we continue to support them in every way we can,” says DeVos. “This additional funding will ensure students, teachers and staff have ongoing access to the services they need to fully recover and rebuild.”
The funding comes from the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations (K-12 Restart) program. The program is providing initial funding while offering subsequent opportunities for eligible states to seek additional assistance.
Under the K-12 Restart program, the education department awards funds to state educational agencies with students and schools affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and California wildfires. The state agencies will provide assistance or services to local school districts, charter schools and private schools.
Puerto Rico is receiving the lion's share of the initial funding: $589,170,000. Texas will receive $89,420,000, and California will receive $14,396,317.
The allocation is based on factors such as the number of schools affected and how long they were closed.
Puerto Rico's education secretary, Julia Keleher, says the Restart funds will help restore normal conditions in schools, The Orlando Sentinel reports.
“Creating new grant programs is a difficult task and [the department of education] should be applauded for how quickly it has been able to make this much needed funding available,' says Keleher.