SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico will receive almost $4 billion in federal education pandemic relief funding, according to US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, to assist the US territory battle COVID-19.
Cardona made the statement during his first formal three-day trip to Puerto Rico as a member of the Biden administration’s Cabinet. It’s the first time the island has complete control over those monies.
He stated, “The students of Puerto Rico have endured enough.” “It’s time to return to school in a safe and timely manner.”
The American Rescue Plan Act, which was enacted into law in March to assist offset the pandemic’s impact on the economy and public health, will release almost half of the approximately $4 billion.
For the first time since the epidemic began, Puerto Rico reopened dozens of public and private schools in March, albeit only around 100 of the island’s more than 850 public institutions were permitted to do so.
Only kindergarteners, special education students, and students in the first, second, third, and 12th grades were allowed to attend in-person lessons twice a week at the time. Due to an increase of COVID-19 cases, officials shuttered all schools a month later, with some not reopening until May.
Many instructors and students have been dealing with persistent power outages and unstable or nonexistent internet connectivity during virtual learning for more than a year. This year, about 24,000 students failed their coursework, with 13,000 earning an “F” in all of their courses, forcing the island’s Department of Education to organize summer courses to assist them, using $210 million in already granted federal money.
Cardona said he will meet with kids, parents, educators, union officials, and others, in addition to Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, “to make sure we hear what’s occurring and how we can best support…Puerto Rico.”
It was unclear how Pierluisi’s government planned to use the increased federal cash right away. Cardona said three months ago that Puerto Rico will have immediate access to $912 million in federal education funds.
Under the Trump administration, strict requirements hindered the US territory from obtaining some federal funding in a timely way, but they have eased under US President Joe Biden.
Nearly 123,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and over 2,000 COVID-19 fatalities have been recorded on the 3.3 million-strong island. Vaccination has been administered to more than 40% of the population.