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First Round Of ‘Strong Families’ Grant Payments Reaches Idaho Students

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Some Idaho families won’t be waiting much longer for grant money promised as part of Governor Brad Little’s ‘Strong Families, Strong Students’ program.

The State Board of Education reported Thursday that a first round of funding for families with less than $50,000 of adjusted gross income has already been allocated. More is on the way as additional applications are processed.

“It's nice to feel a little bit like Santa Claus once in a while,” quipped Tracie Bent, the Board’s Chief Planning and Policy Officer.

The $50 million program offers up to $1,500 per student and up to $3,500 per household for education-related expenses. The state received more than 18,000 applications in the first 48 hours after launching the program.

According to Thursday’s report, 39,930 total applications were received. Of those, 26,307 have been completed and verified, a process Bent said should be completed Friday.

About half of current verified applications fall into the highest-priority tier of income eligibility. 

If half of all applications are from households in the highest priority income tier, it appears few grants may be available for households with incomes above $50,000. 

More than 33,000 students should receive grants; the program website says distribution is first allocated by income tier, and second based on when a household applied.

Once grants are approved, funds are distributed via software called ‘ClassWallet,’ The money can be spent with approved online vendors using the ClassWallet website or app.

Families can also receive reimbursements through the ClassWallet for educational expenses incurred since March 1. Bent reported that around 3,000 requests for reimbursement had already been received.

Greg Wilson is the Governor’s education advisor. He said the program has laid an important foundation of support for Idaho families in the coming months.

“I know a lot of folks are very exuberant about [the] vaccine,” he said. “But I think we are not out of the woods yet and the next four-to-six months will continue to try and test our schools.”

Qualifying education expenses include educational materials, technology, internet service, tutoring and more.

All grants need to be awarded by December 30th. Families have until June 30, 2021 to use grant funds in their virtual wallet.

Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

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