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Families of Chicago students with disabilities can apply for $500 city grants

Applications open for Chicago Diverse Learners Recovery Fund
Applications open for Chicago Diverse Learners Recovery Fund 00:48

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A new city initiative is giving $500 grants to Chicago kids with disabilities – with no strings attached.

Up to 8,000 families are eligible for the grants from the $5 million Diverse Learners Recovery Fund. Mayor Brandon Johnson announced the initiative Tuesday.

Mayor Brandon Johnson noted families of children with disabilities were hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What we're doing is looking at the effects of COVID on our families in particular families with disabilities, knowing the impact of COVID had been great and severe," Jamal Malone, chief executive officer of Ada S. McKinley Community Services, said at a news conference.

"When I ran for Mayor, I made a commitment to do everything in my power to invest in our young people," Mayor Johnson said in a news release. "Our young people with disabilities face unique challenges, but we are committed to their success and these grants are one way through which we are able to directly invest in them."  

The fund will provide one-time grants of $500 to up to 8,000 eligible K-12 students through a lottery.

The program provides grants for as many as two eligible students per household – with a maximum onetime payment of $500 for one student and $1,000 for two. A parent or guardian is responsible for applying for the fund and obtaining the payment.

"The Diverse Learners Recovery Fund is part of our ongoing commitment to making Chicago the most accessible and inclusive city in the world," Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities Commissioner Rachel Arfa said in a news release. "We are proud to launch this effort to address the disproportionate negative economic impact that COVID-19 has had on Chicago students with disabilities and families, who've already faced additional costs to provide the physical, therapeutic, and educational support their children require."

Applicants for the Diverse Learners Recovery Fund must:

  • Live in Chicago.
  • Have a household income of less than 300% of the federal poverty level – which is $90,000 for a household of four.
  • Have up to two students in a household with an identified disability, who are currently enrolled in a K-12 public or private school, and who have an Individualized Education Plan, a 504 Plan, an Individual Support Plan, or a doctor's note verifying a diagnosis for a disability covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mayor Johnson, Commissioner Arfa, and CEO McKinley all attended a launch party on Tuesday, during which families received help applying.

Sherry Henry's son has autism, and she hopes to receive a grant.

"This is like extra. So I'm going to make sure my bills money is together and everything like that, but anything that's supportive is helpful to me and my family to maybe get other things that we cannot get that I would love to have for my child, you know, to help in his development," said Henry.

Applicants should go to

Applications are open until Oct. 30.

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