Puerto Rico to receive nearly $4 billion in pandemic relief funds

Puerto Rico to receive nearly $4 billion in pandemic relief funds
© AP/Pool

Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaPresident, first lady honor teachers at White House awards ceremony Ilhan Omar to Biden: 'Deliver on your promise to cancel student debt' Florida Board of Education approves sanctions on eight school districts over coronavirus mandates MORE announced on Monday that Puerto Rico is set to receive almost $4 billion in pandemic relief funds to aid the U.S. territory’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Approximately half of the funds will come from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package that President BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE signed into law in March, according to The Associated Press.

Cardona revealed the development during his first official three-day trip to Puerto Rico, the first trip a member of Biden’s Cabinet has made to the island, the AP reported.

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“I am honored to be in Puerto Rico — the island of my roots — as the federal government releases critical funds to support Puerto Rico’s efforts to safely reopen its schools for in-person learning,” Cardona said, according to the AP.

Dozens of public and private Puerto Rican schools reopened their doors in March for the first time since the pandemic began. Less than 100 out of more than 850 public schools on the island, however, were authorized to resume.

Only kindergarteners, special education students and children in first, second, third and 12th grades were permitted to return to the classroom for in-person instruction, which was only held until noon for two days a week.

Attendance, however, was low, as COVID-19 concerns persisted on the island.

The next month, officials closed down all schools following an increase in coronavirus infections, according to the AP. Some of the institutions were not reopened again until May.

It was not immediately clear how Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro PierluisiPedro Rafael PierluisiPuerto Rico lifting pandemic curfew, alcohol sales ban Puerto Rico limiting alcohol sales, gatherings as coronavirus cases rise Puerto Rico orders businesses to require proof of vaccination MORE plans to utilize the new funds, the wire service noted.

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Three months ago, Pierluisi reportedly revealed that Puerto Rico had the authority to access $912 million in federal education money.

Stringent conditions in place barred Puerto Rico from receiving particular federal funds in a prompt time frame during the Trump administration, the AP noted, but those circumstances have become more relaxed under the Biden administration.

Puerto Rico has reported more than 173,000 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, and more than 2,500 deaths, according to The New York Times.

As of Monday, 42 percent of the island’s population was fully vaccinated, according to the Times.