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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands)

Mental health issues, lost instructional time, staff burnout, and delays in rebuilding are among the challenges still facing students, teachers, and schools hit by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. Congress assigned the Government Accountability Office to audit the federal response in last year’s disaster relief act, Public Law 116-20; and GAO issued its report on Wednesday. GAO interviewed school officials in the Marianas, California, Florida, and Hawai’i for the report. Everywhere the disruption and economic impact of the pandemic has made disaster recovery even more difficult. Contractors shifted from school repairs to quarantine and care facilities in the Marianas; and local budget cuts led to furloughs of maintenance and repair staff. Marianas officials also said they did not have the financial resources upfront to make repairs and had to wait to see if federal grants would be awarded. One solution would be for the Senate to act on the updated Heroes Act and the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which the House has already passed to help our communities and schools recover.