Low-income families in Champaign County may apply for $175 tax-free vouchers per child for back-to-school clothes because of leftover money allocated to the county’s Department of Job and Family Services.
Susan Bailey-Evans, director of Champaign County Job and Family Services, expects the program to help more than 1,600 children ages 5 to 18 and enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade at a public school. Last year the program served 911 children.
“It doesn’t do a lot for the morale of those kids who don’t have the new stuff,” Bailey-Evans said. “And $175 isn’t a lot, but it sure is enough to give kids a real positive self-image when they go into school.”
To qualify, a family must either be receiving public assistance or have a family income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Vouchers can only be used at Walmart in Urbana or Rue 21 at the Upper Valley Mall in Springfield.
Applications are available at the Job and Family Services office in Urbana at the Champaign County Community Center. Completed applications can be turned from Monday to Wednesday. The vouchers will be available to pick up July 28 to 29 at the community center from 2 to 5 p.m. Remaining vouchers can be picked up during normal business hours through Aug. 12 as long as funds are available.
“To be able to take their children out and do this when they know how tight their finances are, it has been very, very rewarding,” Bailey-Evans said. “Our staff, we don’t always get to see the positive effects of the work that we do. This is something that is just a terrific opportunity for us to be actively involved and engaged with our community.”
The money is left over from the county’s allocation this year in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Unused money goes back to the state.