Following the major devastation caused by Hurricane Michael across the Florida Panhandle, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today a $1.25 million Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant award for Bay District Schools. According to local school officials, the funding will be used to provide students with much needed mental health services. The district plans to hire multiple social workers and one paraprofessional for each school in the Bay district.
“Hurricane Michael caused major disruptions to the lives and daily routines of students, parents and teachers alike,” said Secretary DeVos. “While the state has recovered from most of the physical damage caused by the storm, many in Bay County are still working to recover emotionally. This SERV grant will help fill that need. I want to commend Senator Rubio, Senator Scott and Governor and First Lady DeSantis for their commitment to the students of Bay County and Northwest Florida. We will continue to partner with them to ensure students get access to the resources and counseling they need to heal.”
“Hurricane Michael’s damage had a tremendous impact on schools in the Florida Panhandle, which is why I asked Secretary DeVos to quickly approve these Project SERV applications,” Senator Marco Rubio said. “I applaud Secretary DeVos for getting these much needed funds to Bay County so that students can get the help they need as they and their families continue to rebuild from this terrible tragedy.”
Governor DeSantis added, “Once in office, I took swift action to ensure that Bay County and Northwest Florida will fully recover from this storm. While that includes recovering from the physical damage, it also means fully recovering from the psychological damage Hurricane Michael caused. I thank the U.S. Department of Education for this grant award to help our children and schools, and I look forward to continued work with our federal partners to rebuild and restore Bay County and Northwest Florida.”
First Lady Casey DeSantis says she has visited Bay County to hear first-hand from those directly affected by the hurricane. “While each experience was unique, it is clear that the pain inflicted by Michael went far beyond the physical destruction,” she said. “The invisible wounds caused by such a traumatic experience are just as serious and we must proactively address the mental health of our Northwest Florida communities, especially when it comes to our children. This Project SERV grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education will bring essential mental health support services to the students and staff of Bay County Schools and over time help make the community whole again.”
The $1,256,574 million award from the Department is the first SERV grant Florida has applied for and received for Hurricane Michael recovery efforts.