House Unveils Disaster Aid for Schools

On Monday, House Republicans unveiled a plan to provide $2.9 billion in emergency assistance for institutions affected by the spate of spate of deadly hurricanes and wildfires this year, Politico reported. The funding is part of a massive $81 billion disaster aid package, the largest single funding request for natural calamities in U.S. history.

The proposed legislation would more than double the $1.2 billion in education recovery funding requested by the White House last month. The bulk of the funding would serve as "immediate aid to restart school operations and temporary emergency impact aid for displaced students" that would be doled out to schools and colleges under guidelines set up when the government helped schools respond to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The bill would allocate $200 million to schools in disaster zones through the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, the Federal Work-Study program, and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. It would also provide $120 million to help colleges and universities defray the costs of enrolling displaced students from other institutions whose operations were disrupted by one of the disasters. The U.S. Education Department will establish the criteria for disbursal of that relief.

"This funding will help restart operations in schools in affected areas, including school rebuilding and refurbishment and replacement of educational material," according to a summary released by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee. The funding will also help "states and localities that accommodate displaced students from K-12, college and technical schools from affected areas, including disabled and homeless students," the committee said. It also noted that the money can be used "for both public and private schools."

Lawmakers originally intended for the proposal to be included in a short-term spending bill that would fund the federal government through January 19. However, House Republican leaders had to abandon the plan amid infighting over how best to avoid a government shutdown, The Hill reported. The current continuing resolution is set to expire on Friday at midnight if Congress does not act.

The emerging plan, according to a senior GOP aide, is to pass three separate bills on Thursday: a clean continuing resolution that funds the entire government until January 19, a disaster package for regions damaged by hurricanes and wildfires, and a temporary extension of an expiring surveillance program.


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