U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has called Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) with a pledge of support for Marianas schools, teachers, and students in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu.
“It was most thoughtful of Secretary DeVos to give me a call,” Sablan said. “So many schools suffered damage it will not be easy to get students back to a regular schedule soon. Knowing that Secretary DeVos is aware of our situation and wants to help is a reason to feel hopeful.”
Sablan gave DeVos an overview of the destruction and he encouraged her to contact interim Public School System commissioner Glenn Muña. DeVos said she and her staff would keep in close touch with PSS over the coming weeks of recovery and rebuilding.
“It will be up to PSS to decide which school facilities to repair or rebuild,” said Sablan. “Where Congress comes in is to make sure there is funding available, because it is not likely the Commonwealth can pay for everything that needs to be done.
“I expect, when Congress returns to work, we will be acting quickly on a supplemental appropriations bill to help the American communities impacted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael and by Super Typhoon Yutu. Assistance for schools that need repair or rebuilding will be at the top of my list.
“Programs such as Medicaid and the food stamp program that are not covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund will also need additional funding,” Sablan said. “And the DRF itself may need additional money.”
According to FEMA, as of Oct. 26, its Disaster Relief Fund had $29.43 billion available for Florence, Michael, and Yutu. Hurricane Florence swept across North and South Carolina in September. Hurricane Michael came ashore on the Florida panhandle and drove into Georgia in October.
Sablan said Washington congressional office staff are already putting together his appropriation requests. “I will be there myself immediately after the election for the critical member-to-member conversations to lock in funding,” he said.
Sablan has already received a message of assurance from Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi that no matter “whether they live in the territories or the mainland” Americans can expect “their government will do everything it can to save lives and make them whole.” (PR)