Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday asking the agency to help fund schools in Michigan as they prepare to open during the coronavirus.
In the letter, Peters pushed FEMA to allow schools in Michigan and nationwide to access to funding from the Disaster Relief Fund to help pay for public safety trainings, adapting classrooms and acquiring personal protective equipment for students and staff.
“Schools across the country currently face an unsustainable situation – drastic increases in costs to implement protective measures against COVID-19, paired with expected reductions in financial support from state and local governments,” Peters wrote. “Experts predict that state budget shortfalls will total about $555 billion over the next two years.”
Peters said that the impact of the coronavirus will cost schools roughly $1.8 million.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in June that schools will reopen for in-person classes in the fall. She had originally closed schools on March 1 to slow the spread of the pandemic and extended the closure to the end of the school year in April.
Peters also said the FEMA must work with the Department of Education and Treasury to clearly lay out for schools what expenses are allowable for reimbursement.
“Schools need to know which expenditures will or will not be reimbursed by FEMA, so there is no duplication of benefits from other COVID-19 supplemental funding sources that could be the cause for denials of reimbursement at a later date,” Peters wrote. “The federal government needs to proactively support schools from the start, to minimize confusion and facilitate effective planning for cost reimbursements.”
Peters asked for an update from the agency in two weeks.
“We are all in agreement that our students deserve to have access to a safe, quality education this fall, even in the midst of a global pandemic,” Peters said. “FEMA has the opportunity and the duty to play a role in supporting our nation’s schools in this effort. I urge you to undertake the suggestions I have outlined, and look forward to working with you to support our nation’s schools.”
Read the full letter here.
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter at The Michigan Star and Star News Network. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]