State to reopen applications for remote learning grants

Due to popular demand, the State Board of Education is reversing course and reopening applications for grants designed to help families pay for the cost of remote learning.

But funding may be tight because the number of applicants has already surpassed the amount state officials hoped to help.

The state will reopen its Strong Families, Strong Students online application portal on Wednesday, State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said. The State Board expects to release an official announcement Wednesday morning.

The state plans to keep the online application program open though Dec. 4. That gives families just over a week to apply.

One of the reasons the state will accept applications again is because many people started the application process but did not submit required documents, like a tax form and proof of enrollment.

“We want to give people plenty time to get that stuff in,” Keckler said.

The state originally closed applications early, on Nov. 6, because so many people applied and funding was limited.

But frustrated Idahoans said they missed out when the deadline was moved up.

“We’ve taken quite a few phone calls and received emails from folks who missed it,” Keckler said.

The $50 million grant program provides money for families to pay for costs related to online learning, such as computers or devices, internet connectivity or online learning materials. Grants are capped at $1,500 per student or $3,500 per family.

All of the money comes from federal CARES Act relief funding and the state must spend it before the end of the year.

Originally, state officials hoped the $50 million would help 30,000 students. Just before closing the application window, the State Board said it had received 31,140 applications for 78,987 students.

State Board officials hope to notify successful grant applicants within two weeks.

The vendor managing the grant said all money will be given to families in a digital wallet by Dec 31. Families will have until June 30 to spend the money.

How to apply

Families can apply for the grants online starting Wednesday. Applicants will need to have some paperwork on hand when they apply, including a 1040 tax form to verify income and proof of their child’s enrollment in a public or private school. There are also ways for home school parents to apply if they lost work due to the pandemic.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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