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Rubio Urges Secretary DeVos to Stand Ready to Assist Schools Impacted by Hurricane Michael

Oct 15, 2018 | Press Releases

Marianna, FL – Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to assist Florida schools affected by Hurricane Michael, particularly, by quickly approving Project SERV applications, which are critical to recovery efforts.  Project SERV funds are eligible to local education agencies and institutions of higher education in instances of disasters, or other traumatic events. 

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary DeVos:

Thank you for your continued leadership in response to Hurricane Michael. Your department’s efforts are critical to ensuring a rapid, effective response to this disaster.

Even though the damage is still being assessed, it is abundantly clear that this storm and recovery will have a tremendous impact on our students, their families and our school system. As the State of Florida is in the very early stages of recovery, I request that your team be ready to assist the state when they are prepared to apply for assistance available. 

To date, the school districts in nine counties are closed – most until further notice – and multiple institutions of higher education announced full or partial closures. Some of these local schools are still being used as temporary shelters and others have had buildings completely destroyed. This will undoubtedly exhaust resources of the local school districts impacted by the storm, as well as schools that enroll displaced students, and it could have consequential effects on students’ education if necessary steps are not taken immediately. While the recovery efforts will span across multiple federal, state and local entities, I implore your department to take all available steps to help these communities recover.

In previous disaster recoveries, Project SERV grants were critical to recovery efforts. I ask that the department proactively assist K-12 and postsecondary institutions seeking assistance through Project SERV grants, and that the department expedite the review of all applications from education entities in Florida counties devastated by Hurricane Michael. The use of the grants can include, among other things, mental health services, overtime for teachers and counselors, as well as transportation and other costs to operate the school at an alternate site. This is why I also ask the department to be a resource to state and local officials so schools are prepared with the necessary information when submitting their grant application. Quickly approving Project SERV applications and providing maximum resources available will allow for these students and schools to recover as soon as possible.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. I look forward to hearing from you.

Timeline of Rubio Actions Related to Hurricane Michael:

  • On October 15, 2018, Senators Rubio and Nelson, with members of the Florida delegation, sent a letter urging FEMA Administrator Brock Long to approve Florida Governor Rick Scott’s request to initiate the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program for the remaining 13 counties impacted by Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 12, 2018, Rubio surveyed the damage caused by Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.
  • On October 12, 2018, Senators Rubio and Nelson with Rep. Neal Dunn urged Secretary Wilson and General Goldfein to expedite repair and restoration operations at Tyndall Air Force Base, which was critically impacted during Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 11, 2018, Senators Rubio and Nelson asked Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie to authorize increased outreach efforts and benefits assistance for Florida veterans impacted by Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 11, 2018, FEMA Administrator Brock Long briefed Rubio on damage caused by Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 10, 2018, ahead of Hurricane Michael’s landfall, Rubio encouraged Attorney General Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig to take steps to ensure federal assistance is available to communities affected by the storm.  
  • On October 10, 2018, following Hurricane Michael’s landfall, Rubio, Nelson and Florida Representatives urged President Donald Trump to approve Florida’s request for a major disaster declaration. On October 11, 2018, the President approved the State of Florida’s major disaster declaration.
  • On October 9, 2018, Rubio joined Senator Nelson and Florida Representatives in advocating for President Trump to approve Florida Governor Rick Scott’s request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration ahead of Hurricane Michael.