Local and federal leaders on Wednesday called on Congress and the Trump Administration to pass and sign a bill that would provide $300 billion to help students and school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-San Pedro, called on the Republican-controlled Senate to support a bill that would help K-12 schools safely reopen, when they are allowed to do so.

The funding would provide personal protective equipment for students and staff, help keep classrooms sanitized and improve ventilation systems in schools, Barrágan said.

“When students come back, we need to have funds to support our schools,” she said.

Barragán—whose district includes North Long Beach—and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia criticized the Trump Administration in its calls to quickly reopen schools.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia speaking at a news conference at Jordan High School Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Councilman Rex Richardson, LBUSD Board Member Megan Kerr and Jay Camerino, assistant superintendent for high schools, joined the congresswoman in calling for more financial support.

LBUSD began the new school year online on Tuesday, and with it came frustration and anxiety as teachers were asked to cram training into a shorter time frame and were required to build curriculum for virtual courses.

Camerino praised teachers for their efforts and acknowledged the challenges LBUSD students are still facing, including not having safe places to focus on their work nor adequate access to the internet.

“We need help,” he said. “It’s been tough emotionally.”

Specifics as to how the money would be used to support schools was not discussed, however, a solution Camerino briefly mentioned was potentially using funding to hire college aids to help K-12 students further their studies.

He also stated that LBUSD needs to make an effort to hire more teachers.

Kerr said the district has had to pay for items out of its budget, including an additional 70,000 more Chrome Book laptops to have in stock as the school year progresses.

Councilman Rex Richardson speaks at a news conference in North Long Beach Wednesday Sept. 2, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Richardson, who represents a large part of North Long Beach, said if schools were given the funding they required, it would quickly be put to use.

“Local government is where the rubber meets the road,” he said. “If we get the money, we can make it work.”

In May, the HEROES Act, which would direct more than $90 billion in emergency education funding, was passed by the House but not taken up by the Senate, which expressed concern over the growing tab for coronavirus relief. As the pandemic carried on, Barragán said the need for funding has grown, and Democrats are now requesting $300 billion in education funding.

The window to provide swift support is narrow, as Camerino said hybrid in-person and digital courses could be offered at schools starting in October.