Education Department Provides Nearly $4 Billion in Pandemic Relief Aid and Other Grants to Puerto Rico Department of Education as Secretary Cardona Visits the Commonwealth

3 months ago
AMERICA NEWS NOW

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona today informed The Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and The Honorable Eliezer Ramos, Interim Secretary of Education, that the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) now has full access to all federal education pandemic relief funds earmarked for the Commonwealth and other education program grant dollars. The additional funds available as of today, totaling nearly $4 billion, include:

  • $2 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act;
  • $1.2 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA); and
  • $662 million in FY 2020 program grants.

In the letter to Governor Pierluisi and Interim Secretary of Education Ramos, Secretary Cardona wrote:

“I wish to personally affirm the Department’s commitment to working collaboratively with Puerto Rico and PRDE so that we can attain our shared goal of educational excellence for the children, students and youth of the Commonwealth. We acknowledge your commitment and progress in strengthening academic services and financial management. I know that by working together, we will deliver on this fundamental promise.”

Today’s announcement comes as Secretary Cardona begins a visit to Puerto Rico where he will meet with government and educational leaders and students of the Commonwealth. Secretary Cardona is the first member of President Biden’s Cabinet to visit Puerto Rico, and during the trip, he will reinforce the Biden Administration’s commitment to the island and its continued support for Puerto Rico’s K-12 and higher education students, educators, and families.

Me siento orgulloso, I am honored to be in Puerto Rico—the island of my roots—as the federal government releases critical funds to support Puerto Rico’s efforts to safely reopen its schools for in-person learning and to provide all students on the island with the opportunity to pursue their passions and achieve their dreams,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Today’s announcement reinforces the Biden Administration’s strong partnership with the island and underscores our shared commitment to supporting Puerto Rico’s students, educators, and families. I look forward to the progress we will continue to make together now, and in the weeks and months ahead.”

Today’s announcement follows a series of actions the Biden Administration took in its first months in office to support Puerto Rico students, educators, and families. As part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), Puerto Rico was allocated nearly $3 billion in ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding to support their efforts to reopen K-12 schools safely and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most.

On March 22, Secretary Cardona sent a letter to Governor Pierluisi informing him that the Department had provided the Commonwealth immediate access to $912 million in federal education funds, which had not been available to Puerto Rico as a result of previously imposed grant conditions.

The release of those funds marked a commitment from the Department and the Biden-Harris Administration in supporting Puerto Rico. It also recognized the notable progress ;the Commonwealth has made in taking steps to ensure sound fiscal management of federal education funds while working to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the natural disasters that have impacted students, families, and educators across the island.

And most recently in early June, the Department released $210 million in ESSER II funds to Puerto Rico, awarded under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021. Those federal resources enabled PRDE to implement a robust summer learning and enrichment program through its Summer Academy. As with all students nationwide, the summer presents a key opportunity for school and community partners in Puerto Rico to accelerate learning and provide new avenues for students to safely engage with each other.

Today’s release of nearly $4 billion in funds represents all of the remaining funding that had previously not been available to Puerto Rico, including both pandemic relief funds and annual program grants. The Department has worked in partnership with Puerto Rico to put in place enhanced oversight and accountability measures to ensure that these resources result in impactful programs for the students of the Commonwealth and are spent in compliance with the applicable laws and other requirements. PRDE recently finalized the agreement with its selected third-party fiduciary agent (TPFA) and the TPFA is ready to perform financial management duties. The Department remains eager to provide needed resources and support to the Commonwealth’s schools and students in the wake of the pandemic.