The Champaign County Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS) is offering a back to school program to allow families of school-age children to purchase school clothes and shoes.
The Prevention, Retention and Contingency (PRC) Back to School Program will provide a maximum of $175 per child in the form of a voucher that must be used at the Urbana Wal-Mart and Rue 21 at the Upper Valley Mall, Springfield.
Champaign County DJFS Director Susan Bailey-Evans said applications for the program became available starting Tuesday at the agency’s lobby, 1512 S. U.S. Route 68, and will also be available at local libraries in Urbana, Mechanicsburg, North Lewisburg and St. Paris as well as the Caring Kitchen, 300 Miami St.
An envelope will be included for applicants who want to mail the application to the agency.
“I think the most important piece is allowing kids to feel included and being able to have an opportunity to have a new pair of shoes and some new clothes to go back to school with,” Bailey-Evans said. “Unfortunately some of our families have to make decisions between back to school clothes or paying utilities or rent or even sometimes putting food on the table and this just provides an opportunity for kids to have a good fresh start to the start of the year.”
She noted the voucher does not include backpacks or school supplies and is strictly for clothing.
Martha Bacon, DJFS business administrator, said 911 vouchers were given out last year.
“The kids are really excited when they come back and show us their new outfits or they come and tell us what new stuff they got to go back to school in,” Bacon said. “It’s a good feeling knowing that you made them happy and that they want to go to school because they want to put their best foot forward.”
Applications can be returned to the agency between July 18 and July 20 during normal business hours. Applications will not be accepted prior to July 18.
Program applicants must be recipients of public assistance or have a family income below 200 percent of poverty. As part of the application, applicants must include any income received during the last 30 days in order to have eligibility determined.
Other eligibility guidelines for the program include being a resident of Champaign County at the time the voucher is issued, attending school outside the home, being between the ages of 5 and 18 and enrolled in and attending grades kindergarten through 12th grade, and not being sanctioned for failure to follow program rules or serving a fraud penalty.
Vouchers will be ready for pickup on July 28 and 29 at the Champaign County Community Center, 1512 S. U.S. Route 68, between 2 and 5 p.m. Any remaining vouchers can be picked up at the front desk during normal business hours until Aug. 12, 2016.
Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis up to the point of available funding. When funding has been maximized, applications will be denied regardless of eligibility.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.