U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy announced that her initiative to help school districts in Florida and other states that enroll students from areas displaced by recent hurricanes has been included in the emergency funding request that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) submitted to Congress. The total request of $44 billion includes $1.24 billion in funding to support elementary schools, high schools, and colleges and universities that enroll displaced students.
According to the latest estimates, 156,000 U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico have relocated to Florida in the last two months, and many of these families have school-age children. In Orange County alone, the public schools have already enrolled over 2,450 displaced students since Hurricane Maria.
“When disaster strikes anywhere in our nation, Congress has a duty to act swiftly to help those families affected,” said Murphy. “I have been working with members of both parties to ensure that Florida and Puerto Rico receive the federal funding they need to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. In particular, I’ve led the bipartisan effort to ensure schools in Florida who enroll students from Puerto Rico have sufficient resources to provide a great education to both their new and current students. Although I am concerned that the overall request of $44 billion is insufficient and I do not support OMB’s proposed offsets, I am pleased that the request includes this critical funding for students and families in central Florida.”
On Oct. 5, 2017, Murphy authored a letter to the House Appropriations Committee and OMB urging them to allocate funding to elementary schools, high schools, and colleges that enroll displaced students. The letter was signed by 30 Members of Congress, including both Democrats and Republicans, representing Florida, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Each of these states has a large Puerto Rican population and will be a likely destination for island families moving to the mainland in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Since the letter, Murphy has worked closely with OMB, her colleagues on the Appropriations Committee, and school districts in Florida in support of her bipartisan effort.
The next step is for Congress to consider OMB’s request, and Congress can—and likely will—provide funding beyond that requested by OMB. This will be the third emergency appropriations bill that Congress approves, having already approved two bills in September and October. OMB has made clear there will be a fourth request for funding, intended to meet the significant long-term needs of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.