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Strong families, Strong Students program to help Idaho families with education costs caused by COVID-19

The new program, launching Wednesday, aims to help families pay for extra educational costs created by situations like virtual learning.

BOISE, Idaho — Starting Wednesday, Idaho families can apply for funds aimed at supporting educational expenses brought on by the pandemic. The program is called Strong Families, Strong Students.

State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said they know Idahoans had to spend extra money this year to make sure their students were better prepared for alternative learning scenarios. The program is designed to help ease that burden.

“Strong Families, Strong Students is an exciting new program brought to us by way of federal relief funds,” Critchfield said. “We knew that there were certain items and priorities that needed to be fulfilled at home so that the educational process wasn’t disrupted as much.”

Beginning Wednesday, families can go to the program website, www.strongfamilies.idaho.gov, to apply for the program. $50 million has been set aside for families to utilize.

“Each student is eligible for $1,500, up to $3,500 per family. So if you have two or more children you are at that $3,500 mark,” Critchfield said.

Funds can be used on devices, internet expenses, school supplies, tutoring sessions, and more. So, who is eligible?

Critchfield explained all families with students in any K-12 school are encouraged to apply. The first round of payments to families will be based on the criteria of family income, Critchfield explains.

“We are going to do this in waves, we want to make sure that those who have the most need have first access and so that first wave cutoff is at a $50,000 mark. We are encouraging people and inviting people to go to the website so that they can understand and have that information readily available at their fingertips,” Critchfield said.  

Critchfield said after the first wave, the program will open up to more Idahoans in a very short time.

The money being sent to families can be used in two ways, reimbursements on education-related expenses and for new items.

“There are reimbursable items available that would be achieved through showing a receipt or some type of evidence or proof that, that had happened,” Critchfield said.

For example, if a family bought a laptop for educational purposes, the website will facilitate getting a reimbursement.

To purchase new items, families will be set up with an account through Class Wallet.

“Everyone who applies for the program will have something called a digital wallet. That will give them access to a marketplace where they can purchase the items without having it come out of pocket to be reimbursed later,” Critchfield said.

Families have until December 8 to apply for the program.

“This is an opportunity to say, families, we recognize that you have challenges that we are not aware of and that you are trying to support your student as we are. How do we partner to do that? Here is an opportunity for you to make those decisions that impact you and benefit you in the most priority ways,” Critchfield said.

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