Chicago announces $5M assistance fund for students with disabilities; application opens for families

Evelyn Holmes Image
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Families grateful for cash assistance fund for students with disabilities
The Diverse Learners Recovery Fund is a collaboration between the Chicago Mayor's Office and Ada S. McKinley Community Services.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thousands of families will receive help thanks to the Diverse Learners Recovery Fund for students with disabilities.

The $5 million fund will give one-time $500 grants to 8,000 eligible K-12 students through a lottery.

The effort is a partnership between the city of Chicago and Ada S. McKinley Community Services, one of Chicago's oldest and largest human services organizations.

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For diverse learner and aspiring stylist Arlesia Long and her father, Eddie Ferrell, the prospect of a cash grant is a game changer.

"It would help me, my hair equipment for cosmetology," Long said.

The 16-year-old high school freshman's goal is one step closer to becoming a reality.

"It would be huge just for her to see that somebody outside of myself actually cares for her," Ferrell said.

The program is funded by the coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act.

The initiative hopes to offset the unique educational and social emotional setbacks some students with disabilities suffered during the pandemic.

"What we're doing is looking at the effects of COVID-19 on our families, in particular families with students with disabilities," said Jamal Malone, Ada S. McKinley Community Services CEO.

Commissioner Rachel Arfa, with the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, said the program will impact every community.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was on-hand to encourage families to apply for the support.

South Sider Sherry Henry is applying for her son, James, who is autistic.

"Money is tight; you're able, with a little extra, to get these things like you always wanted to do," Henry said.

To be eligible to enter the lottery, families must live in Chicago, have a student with a disability at home and meet the household income limit, which should be less than or equal to 300% of the federal poverty level.

It's still unclear when the effort could be expanded.

Parents, guardians and families can apply for the grant here.