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Press Release

Rep Castor, Florida Delegation Democrats Urge the State of Florida to Immediately Distribute Available K-12 Emergency Funding, Again!

Billions of dollars made available to the State of Florida through the American Rescue Plan and other federal Covid19 aid packages have not been distributed to benefit students despite repeated calls and urgency

Today, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14) led all Congressional Florida Democrats in urging Governor Ron DeSantis and leaders in Tallahassee to immediately distribute billions in K-12 federal funding made available to the State through the American Rescue Plan. Florida’s students and public schools are in dire need of additional resources to operate safely, address student academic achievement, and keep teachers and other essential personnel on the job, and available monies being held by the State would stabilize school districts statewide as students return to the classroom.

The letter can be read here and below:

 August 5, 2021

RE: Urge State of Florida to Distribute K-12 American Rescue Plan Emergency Funding for In-person Learning for the Fall – Students, Schools and Educators Need Support Now

Dear Governor DeSantis, President Simpson, Speaker Sprowls and Commissioner Corcoran:

President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law on March 11, 2021. The ARP provides Florida school districts with $7.4 billion to help schools reopen safely and meet students’ academic and health needs in response to COVID-19. Two-thirds of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funds were immediately available to states, while the remainder of funds were made available following state submittal of ESSER implementation plans by June 7, 2021. Florida missed the deadline, but it’s not too late to provide Florida school districts the funding they desperately need to help our students learn and thrive in a healthy and safe environment, especially as Florida is now the epicenter of COVID-19 in its more infectious form. We urge you to expeditiously release all federal funds – including the remaining ESSER funds Florida Congressional Democratic members called for in March.

Importantly, we also urge you to submit Florida’s state plan to the Department of Education (ED) to claim our state’s full ESSER III dollars. We have worked in Congress to provide timely and much-needed emergency aid to our local communities and schools including through the ARP, which provided the largest one-time federal investment in K-12 education in our nation’s history. Over the past year, Congress has invested roughly $200 billion to help K-12 schools safely reopen, stay open, and address lost time in the classroom. We have listened to our parents, teachers, non-instructional personnel, school board members, our school districts and the Florida Education Association (FEA). All agree that students and public schools are in dire need of additional resources to operate safely, address student academic achievement, and keep teachers and other essential personnel on the job.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the delays in receiving federal emergency aid have created budget pressures for many Florida school districts. Florida schools are facing extensive unexpected costs as a direct result of the public health crisis. Across the state of Florida, school districts are contemplating how to keep students and educators safe, make up for learning losses, attract talented educators, and implement safety protocols with hand sanitizer, air purifiers and PPE. You are forcing some school districts to consider drastic cuts that would prove harmful to our students in the long run. Unfortunately, the State of Florida’s pattern of delay in withholding federal emergency aid likely will increase the negative impact on our school districts, eventually costing taxpayers more money or leading to additional budget harm. It does not have to be this way.

Through the ARP, CRRSA, and CARES, Congress has directed over $15 billion in federal emergency aid to Florida that is intended to support our students and educators immediately without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. As FEA underlines, “We all can agree that our students, regardless of where they come from, what they look like or where they live, deserve the best education possible so that they can pursue their dreams.” We urge you to expedite releasing federal emergency funds to our local public schools, submit Florida’s ARP ESSER state plan, put the needs of our families and students first, and work with us to ensure that Florida students thrive and meet their full potential. They deserve no less.