AUGUSTA, Ga. – This school year has been unusual, to say the least, but for parents that have a child with special needs, it’s also been tough on the wallet.
“It’s exhausting,” said Michelle Hawk, a mother who has an 18-year-old daughter with autism. “Financially it is costing.”
Since schools closed down and parents had to keep their kids home, resources like tutoring, transportation, and other academic help came right out of their pocket.
“It’s putting me in a bind of whether should I pay bills first or give her the proper care that she needs. I choose to pick the proper care that she does need,” said Hawk.
So now, a new program in Georgia hopes to help these families. The Governor’s Office, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, and the Georgia Department of Education have designated $10 million to assist special needs students with the highest needs for expenses incurred due to school closings during the pandemic.
Applications are being taken to give money back to families that had to pay for services schools would normally provide.
“A lot of parents have come out of pocket, much more than $500 in most cases to make sure that their children are making that steady progress,” said Tanya Schlegel, a special education advocate in the CSRA.
She says that she deals with these issues daily.
“A lot of families that were hit really bad during the pandemic couldn’t afford the therapies even if they were going to be reimbursed,” she said.
For Hawk, who is a single mom, regardless of getting some money back will still give her daughter the best care needed.
“It’s what you do as a parent. You put your needs behind, and you make sure that your special needs child is taken care of,” she said.
Expenses that have been identified as eligible for reimbursement are those that are necessary to meet the challenges these students face regarding educational achievement, personal development, and emotional wellbeing.