Congress has proposed sending $2.7 billion to school systems devastated by hurricanes and wildfires last year — long-awaited money that could be used to replace books and equipment and help tens of thousands of displaced students.
It is the first aid proposed specifically for schools since Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in August, shutting down classes for more than a million children. Houston school Superintendent Richard A. Carranza said last year the storm caused an estimated $700 million in damage, about one-third of the district’s annual budget.
The aid would be distributed through the U.S. Department of Education, with money allocated on a per-student basis in disaster-affected schools. The bill proposes $100 million for colleges and universities and $25 million to aid college students forced to transfer because of natural disasters.
Storms and wildfires shut down school for millions of students this fall, and many students, who lost their homes, find themselves in new schools. Students are also grappling with the lingering effects of trauma and grief.
Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico in September, destroying schools, dismantling the power grid and leaving some students out of class for more than two months. When school began in January after the holiday break, one-third of schools still had no power.
Hurricane Irma flattened parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands, including its small school system, and deluged schools in Florida, which canceled classes in all of the state’s public schools. Wildfires in California in October and December left hundreds of thousands of children out of school, and destroyed several school buildings.