Gov. Brian Kemp has earmarked $10 million in federal funds to reimburse families of students with special needs for school-related expenses they incurred during the pandemic. The deadline to apply for the money is June 30.
Hannah Heck is one of the parents who has applied for reimbursement. Her oldest son has Down’s Syndrome, so he has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that includes specific services he receives in school. Heck’s son usually receives Occupational Therapy twice a week to help him with motor skills, like handwriting. However, she decided to cut that back to once a week when the school switched to online learning during the pandemic.
“It was really hard to have him sit down again at a screen and do something that was really difficult [handwriting],” Heck said. “So, even at a school…where they were really trying to give us everything we needed, it just was not working at the full extent of what he needed.”
So, the family paid for a former teacher to come to their home to help Heck’s son in person. That cost more than the maximum reimbursement amount of $500, but Heck says any amount helps.
“Having a little extra money in your pocket allows you to put some of that money toward something in the future-oriented…like having a little more flexibility to go toward additional co-pays for therapies or some camp enrichment,” she says.
Experts say students with special needs were especially affected during COVID-19, mostly due to disruptions in their routines.
Parents can apply for the reimbursements through the Georgia Department of Education’s website.