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DHHR begins accepting applications for school voucher program this week

No matter what COVID-19 says, the right school clothes are still the right school clothes.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources begins accepting applications for its school voucher program this week. Tuesday is the first day.

That’s the $200 outlay which allows qualifying families to outfit their children for the coming school year — even if this particular year has already been more than accessorized by the pandemic.

COVID-19, in fact, is why the cash is coming in different formats this year, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said.

Instead of the traditional paper voucher, the outlay will be delivered via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card or a check, he said.

The switchover, the secretary said, was motivated by both accounting and the coronavirus.

Most transactions are done electronically anyway, he said.

And many families are opting to do their shopping online, so as to avoid crowds and possible exposure to the virus.

The EBT card will operate as a debit card, Crouch said, and the checks may be deposited or cashed.

Some families across the state automatically receive a voucher: They include families with school-aged children currently receiving WV WORKS cash assistance.

Children in foster care are instant recipients, the DHHR says.

So are children between the ages of 4 and 18 receiving benefits through SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, while enrolled in school and under 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.

Applications may be made online or by mail. Families may contact their local DHHR office or by calling 1-877-716-1212. The deadline for applications is Sept. 30.

Vouchers cover clothing (there are guidelines on clothing and styles selected) and piece goods for the families that do their own sewing.

Monies for the vouchers are administered through the DHHR’s Bureau for Children and Families.

Linda Watts, the bureau’s commissioner, said nearly 62,000 children benefited from the program last year. Each one, she said, went back to school in style.

“It’s about confidence,” she told The Dominion Post previously.

The school voucher program in West Virginia goes back to 1974, when then-Gov. Arch Moore launched it with a $25 outlay. That’s a little more than $131, in today’s dollars.

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