Puerto Rico Receives More Than $900 Million in Education Funds That Were Held Back by Trump Administration
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Puerto Rico has been given immediate access to $912 million in federal funds that the Trump administration had withheld from the island's private and public school students.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona made the announcement on Monday, just weeks after Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi wrote a letter to Cardona asking for access to previously approved aid.
"Our students have endured a lot, since the hurricanes from 2017 to earthquakes and the Covid-19 pandemic, and they deserve to go back to normal," Pierluisi said in Spanish, according to NBC News. "These resources will provide the necessary funds to satisfy the needs of our students on the island. On behalf of our children, teachers, and the parents of Puerto Rico, I thank Secretary Miguel Cardona for his commitment to supporting Puerto Rico and President Biden for quickly granting Puerto Rico access to these federal funds."
In 2019, the Trump administration limited the island's access to the funds, accusing the Puerto Rico Department of Education of mismanaging money in the past, NBC reports. Now, under new leadership, the U.S. territory hopes to fast-track assistance to its students, some of whom returned to 96 reopened schools earlier this month (Puerto Rico has 858 public schools altogether.)
The funds include $390 million that was approved under the CARES Act, along with additional money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund. The funds will also encompass all of the fiscal year 2019 department program grant money (a total of $522 million) as well as money under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.
"The Department is committed to partnering with and supporting Puerto Rico in the efficient and effective use of department funds to serve Puerto Rico’s students, including to safely reopen schools and maximize in-person instructional time," Cardona stated in a press release.
The U.S. Department of Education is expected to work in tandem with local officials to figure out how best to use the money to support Puerto Rican students, a spokesperson for Jenniffer González, Puerto Rico's resident commissioner, told NBC.