PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – Sen. Tim Johnson says he can think of a good use for as many as 20,000 unused Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers.
The South Dakota Democrat has suggested to FEMA that the trailers be moved to Indian country for housing and school buildings.
Many of the mobile homes purchased for hurricane victims are unused while 90,000 American Indian families are homeless or have inadequate housing, Johnson said.
“Rather than allow these homes to go to waste, they can be used immediately in native communities, not only for housing but also as additional classrooms for reservation schools, whose facilities are in desperate need of repair,” Johnson’s letter said.
“Providing these homes to native communities would be a much-needed step towards serving communities in crisis, and a thoughtful deployment of federal resources.”
FEMA has received Johnson’s letter and is reviewing it, said Aaron Walker, the agency’s press secretary.
Kyle Downey, spokesman for Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said it’s an idea worth pursuing and that using the trailers as schools would make the most sense.
The BIA school construction budget was cut $117 million this year, Johnson said during a discussion of efforts by the Crow Creek Tribal School to replace living quarters and space lost in a dormitory fire a year ago.
“We are asking children to learn in school buildings that are literally falling down around them,” Johnson said.
The BIA budget is just a proposal by the administration, Downey said. “Congress ultimately decides how tax dollars are spent. Sen. Thune has opposed many of the proposed reductions in spending for Indian country,” he said.