Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency Thursday announced that families of children with significant cognitive disabilities can apply for a grant to help them with COVID-related expenses.
The Supplementary Special Education Services program will let those families of students with more complex educational needs apply for a $1,500 online account that can be used in a state-run marketplace to purchase goods and services that can help them mitigate the educational setbacks they might have encountered from the pandemic.
The program was established in the fall with $30 million earmarked for it. That will assist at least 18,000 students statewide with the one-time grant.
Priority will be given to Texas families receiving income assistance and to families that have documented financial needs, the state said.
“The SSES program provides crucial academic resources to students with cognitive disabilities and will help close the educational gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Abbott. “I urge eligible Texans to apply for this funding so that the State of Texas can partner with them and provide more support to Texas students.”
“I encourage eligible parents of special education students to apply for the Supplemental Special Education Service program grant,” added Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. “Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that our special education students have additional resources to help with the disruptions brought about by the pandemic along with the additional challenges they face.”
Once approved for the program, families will be provided access to a ClassWallet-managed online portal and a digital spending account which they can use with providers that have been vetted and approved by TEA. The portal will provide information on available resources and services, allow families to make purchases, and provide them with full account and balance information. The program will support students who were enrolled in Texas public schools during the 2019-20 school year and are currently enrolled for the 2020-21 school year.
“The SSES program will go a long way to offset the unprecedented educational disruptions that COVID-19 has created for thousands of Texas students with unique learning needs, and I appreciate Governor Abbott’s leadership on the matter,” said Texas Speaker Dade Phelan.
“This program is yet another example of the innovative ways in which our state is working to close gaps in our system of public education,” explained TEA commissioner Mike Morath. “COVID-19 has created a host of new challenges for students, families, and teachers—but particularly for those students requiring special education services.”
The TEA is requesting that school systems across the state encourage eligible families of K-12 students identified with complex disabilities or significant cognitive disabilities to review eligibility requirements and complete the online application through the secure portal. Following the submission of an application, eligible families will receive an email to create their SSES marketplace account through ClassWallet to access the one-time $1,500 per eligible student grant.