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Thousands of parents apply for grants to offset cost of remote learning

The Idaho State Board of Education will hold a special virtual meeting to discuss extending the waiver of college entrance exams through the 2021-2022 academic year.
Posted at 3:01 PM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 17:01:27-04

This article was originally published by Clark Corbin in Idaho Ed News.

Thousands of Idaho families are flocking to apply for their share of a $50 million federal grant designed to offset the cost of remote learning.

The state has received 14,140 applications in just over 24 hours since launching the Strong Families, Strong Students application site Wednesday morning.

“We believed in the strength and the purpose of this program and the tremendous response has validated that,” State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said.

There was so much demand that the online system experienced a heavy load that led to delays.

Those applications cover 29,225 students, with the average family size on an application at 2.7 students, State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said.

Grants can total up to $1,500 per student or $3,500 per family.

Parents can apply for the grant to cover expenses such as computers or devices, online connectivity and learning materials related to at-home, online instruction.

The $50 million for the grant comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

The state is accepting applications for a share of the grant through Dec. 8. One of the strings attached to the federal grant is the state has to spend the money by the end of 2020.

Back in September, the state said the grants could help roughly 30,000 students. The state has already received nearly that many requests and the program hasn’t been live for two full days yet.

The grants will be awarded based on need, and then on a first-come, first-served basis.

The program has come together quickly in recent weeks.

Gov. Brad Little announced his plan to put $50 million in CARES Act funding into grants for families on Sept. 11.

On Monday, the State Board approved a contract with Miami-based ClassWallet to manage the grant program with an online marketplace. The State Board approved the contract with little discussion. The base contract is $515,000 and ClassWallet will be able to collect fees that bring the value of the contract to about $2 million.

Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is a partner at the Strategos Group lobbying firm, which represents ClassWallet, The Associated Press Reported Monday. Luna currently serves as chairman of the state Republican Party.

State officials said they chose ClassWallet because of the vendor’s experience managing similar programs in other states, including Oklahoma.

Parents who apply for the grant will need to gather some paperwork:

  • A 1040 tax form, for proof of income.
  • Proof of state residency.
  • Proof of the child’s enrollment in a public or private school. Home school families can also apply if a parent lost work due to the pandemic.

Apply online

Visit www.strongfamilies.idaho.gov to apply for your share of the grant money.