November 16, 2017

Warren, Nelson Seek Funding for Schools Impacted by Irma, Maria

Text of the letter available here (PDF)

Washington, DC - As Congress begins work on a third disaster supplemental bill to help fund recovery efforts in areas hit hardest by Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in urging Senate appropriators to include in the bill additional funding to help schools impacted, both directly and indirectly, by the storms.

Nearly two months have passed since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico and according to the Massachusetts Governor's Office, approximately 1,300 Puerto Rican individuals or families have sought or received assistance through its Executive Office of Health and Human Services.  Among those evacuating to the mainland are thousands of children and students looking to continue their educations by enrolling in schools throughout Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that as of November 8th, nearly 900 displaced students from Puerto Rico have already enrolled in public schools across Massachusetts, primarily in the Springfield, Worcester, Boston, Holyoke, New Bedford, and Lawrence school districts.  This sudden influx of students can place a tremendous strain on a local school district's budget and resources.

"In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congress acted to ensure additional resources were allocated to ensure our schools could serve and educate children, especially those displaced by the storms," the senators wrote. "We ask Congress to take a similar approach that recognizes the financial needs of our schools to support students and their families experiencing homelessness in this time of dire need."

Congress is expected to take up and pass a third disaster supplemental bill before the end of the year.  

The letter was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.).

In the weeks since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Senator Warren has:

  • Urged Puerto Rico's Financial Oversight and Management Board to request that the Court overseeing Puerto Rico's debt restructuring completely write off the Island's debt obligations.
  • Led a group of 12 senators asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information about water- and vector-borne diseases in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Written to the Trump Administration outlining what ought to be included in a third disaster supplemental appropriations bill to address the damage caused by hurricanes and wildfires across the country.
  • Joined colleagues in demanding federal agencies expedite power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Joined in leading a group of 7 senators in pushing the Trump administration to increase efforts on Vieques and Culebra, especially securing the Vieques Superfund site.
  • Urged the Department of Education to use its discretion to help college students and student loan borrowers displaced or otherwise unable to continue their education in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  
  • Led a group of senators urging DHS to take steps to ensure the accuracy of the official fatality count in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
  • Called for Puerto Rico's debt relief during a Capitol Hill rally in coordination with the #JustRecovery march.
  • Participated in a FEMA briefing on the status of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Led a coalition of senators in a letter to President Trump, urging him to step up disaster recovery efforts on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra.
  • Held community meetings in Massachusetts to discuss the economic and humanitarian crises on the islands.
  • Pressed President Trump to take eight immediate, specific actions in response to the crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Urged HHS to provide additional resources and better coordinate efforts to combat the growing public health crisis on the ground.
  • Called on the President to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to more swiftly respond to the disaster.
  • Written to Republican leadership requesting that Congress be allowed to promptly take up legislation to provide the necessary aid to the U.S. citizens living on the islands.  
  • Asked President Trump to waive the local cost-sharing requirement for the hurricane response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and for the federal government to fully cover recovery expenses.
  • Joined Senator Markey in calling for a resolution to the Univision-Verizon retransmission dispute, to hasten the restoration of Spanish-language news programming in the wake of the hurricanes.