Covering Special Education Costs in Tough Times

Posted on September 18, 2020

By now, most students across the country are back to school. But what school actually looks like right now varies as states and private institutions individually decide on their measures to prevent COVID-19 spread. So, needless to say, the transition to a new school year hasn’t been easy for many. Teachers in particular were left to figure out adapted lesson plans for virtual learning, and as usual, are paying out of pocket for many of the costs to make their classrooms engaging. U.S. News recently highlighted the difficulties faced by the nearly 800,000 students receiving special education services in California. Instead of physically attending school and having access to the supplies and one-on-one teacher time they need, children are depending on what’s available at home, including Wi-Fi, computers, study space, parental guidance, and so on. This setup can make learning particularly difficult for students who do not have access to the necessary resources – on top of the challenges they may already face when learning in a brand new way. It’s also a problem for teachers and parents who need to scramble to ensure their kids have at least the minimum education resources they need.

Since decisions about COVID-19 safety protocols are often fast-paced, many families were not financially prepared to provide their homes with all the tools their kids will need to learn outside the classroom by the beginning of this school year. For students receiving special needs services, it’s one of the many reasons our team at Milestone advocates for early and proper financial planning. Those who received a settlement from a birth injury case, for example, may have the opportunity to set some of those funds aside in a special needs trust for education and at-home costs.

Of course, this kind of trust is not the right choice for every person with special needs. Special needs trusts are only meant to help beneficiaries of needs-based government benefits comply with those programs income-wise to keep their eligibility. But there are several financial planning options available to someone with special needs – an ABLE account or another kind of trust, for example – that can help pay for expenses beyond what SSI and Medicaid cover.

But is it too late to set up some kind of fund to cover at-home education expenses during COVID-19? That depends on how long schools will be functioning under these unique circumstances. But if nothing else, this unusual time has taught us that the routines we are used to having can change overnight. So, setting up designated funds for a child with special needs may be a good task to keep top-of-mind to help with future planning. If you’re interested in learning more about your options, we welcome you to contact Milestone to speak with one of our experts. There is no obligation if you call; we’ll help get you on the right path.