REPS. MALONEY, SERRANO WORK TO ENSURE SCHOOLS WILL RECEIVE ASSISTANCE

Oct 17, 2002
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), along with Representatives JosÁ Serrano (D-NY), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), and Martin Frost (D-TX), introduced legislation, H.R. 5676, “The Disaster Relief for Our Schools Act,” which would return authority to the U.S. Department of Education for providing assistance to school districts following a disaster.  In 1994, responsibility for disaster assistance officially was transferred from the Department of Education to FEMA under the Stafford Act.  
         

“This is an issue not just for New York after 9/11, but which could affect school districts that may be impacted by future disasters including tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes.  Given the history of FEMA’s dealing with the New York City School System, the necessary steps must be taken now to ensure that the responsibility for helping schools to respond to disasters is returned to the U.S. Department of Education, which had a proven track record of overseeing this type of assistance,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in a statement today.  

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, New York City’s schools incurred significant costs.  These costs range from lost instructional time to replacing damaged goods to improving the quality of the buildings.  Some Members in the New York congressional delegation have been working to obtain $141 million including $103 million in operating costs, $3 million in lost school lunch revenues, $1.9 million in transportation costs, and $33 million for mental health counseling, to address these expenses.

A letter, which included a timeline of efforts to help New York City’s schoolchildren, sent by Representative Maloney on July 22, 2002, to FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh remains unanswered    This legislation will eliminate this type of delay in assistance from occurring in the future by returning the authority back to the people who understand the needs of New York’s schools.

Background:  
Legislation was enacted in 1965 that authorized the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to distribute disaster assistance to local school districts that had been impacted by a declared disaster.  In 1994, responsibility for disaster assistance officially was transferred from the Department of Education to FEMA under the Stafford Act.  FEMA traditionally has interpreted the Stafford Act as only authorizing reimbursement for damage to physical structures, but not for operating losses.  However, following the Northridge earthquake in California, the Los Angeles school district received $80 million as compensation for lost instructional time.  The aid for lost instructional and other operating aid needs arrived to the school district within two weeks of the earthquake, under the old statute.