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Can’t pay your rent? – Resources for renters

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Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam is focused on keeping Virginians in their homes and ensuring people experiencing homelessness are provided shelter. The Governor is focused on the immediate public health need to keep Virginians in their homes and is seeking federal assistance for rent relief for COVID-19-impacted Virginians. The emergency judicial order has halted eviction processes through May 17, and the Governor and General Assembly have passed legislation that caps late fees on rent and provides additional state COVID-19-related protections from evictions and foreclosure. These are short-term protections, as rent will continue to accrue. The key during this unprecedented time is to know your rights, knowing the housing counseling services available to you, and communicating with your landlord.

​If You Can’t Pay Your Rent: Know your rights, seek housing counseling assistance, and talk to your landlord. If you are unable to pay your rent because of COVID-19, the first thing you should do is know your rights, seek housing counseling resources, and then contact your landlord to learn what your options are.

If you are a Housing Choice Voucher recipient, contact your voucher agency as soon as possible, so they can work with you toward a solution. From now until July 24, 2020, if you fall behind on your payment, you will not be charged a late fee or penalty for a missed payment. There will also be no evictions for those who had housing vouchers until July 24, 2020. This does not apply, however, to a tenant who may have violated their lease by damaging the property or other circumstances such as drug abuse.

Understand the consequences. Even with new evictions being suspended, and even if your landlord allows you to skip one or more payments, the rent will need to be repaid eventually. Once the current crisis has passed, tenants may fall under various state and federal protections, but some property owners may be able to collect full payment or raise your rent to recover missed payments. Be sure to discuss this with your landlord and double-check that advice with a housing counselor or legal representation so you understand any potential future consequences of skipping rental payments now, and the specifics of what protections are available to you.

Provide documentation: Provide your landlord proof that you have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Ask for a grace period: If you just need a bit of extra time before you can make rent payments again, request a grace period from your landlord to make your payments and have your late fees waived. Most landlords understand and will be willing to work with you on this.

Discuss your payment plan options: To avoid having to pay a lump sum payment of your past-due rent, request a payment plan from your landlord and have it spread over a longer period of time. Once you agree on a payment plan, ask for the plan in writing.

​File for unemployment: Workers whose jobs were halted because of COVID-19 are likely eligible for unemployment benefits.

​If you are experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing your housing, contact your local homeless crisis response system.

​The Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Handbook provides guidelines for tenant and landlord rights. For tenants in hotels or motels, if the room or suite has been the tenant’s primary residence for more than 90 days or there is a written lease for at least 90 days, it is illegal for a landlord to evict the tenant without getting a court order and involving the sheriff’s office. The halt on evictions does apply to these types of circumstances. If you are facing eviction, if your landlord attempts to lock you out without taking you to court, or if you have questions about your rights, contact Virginia Legal Aid by calling 1-866-LEGL-AID or get legal advice from the Eviction Legal Helpline by calling 1-833-NoEvict. Please do pay your rent or mortgage if you are able, as these costs will continue to accumulate. The Virginia Poverty Law Center has created a website dedicated to COVID-19 Legal Response in Virginia.

Managing Your Debt: If you have debt, you should pay it off in the following order, as a general rule:

  1. ​Rental payments
  2. Outstanding utility bills
  3. Car payments
  4. Other outstanding debt

​Helpful Links:

2-1-1 Virginia

HUD Brochure Addressing Tenant Concerns in HUD-assisted and HUD-insured Multifamily Developments

HUD-Certified Housing Counselors

HUD Flyer on Tenant Concerns & Suspension of Evictions for Participants in the Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, and Mod Rehab Programs

Mortgage and Housing Assistance During COVID-19 – information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

National Alliance to End Homelessness

Renter Education eBook (from VHDA)

Virginia Legal Aid

​Virginia Poverty Law Center

Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Handbook

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Virtual learning a mixed bag for special education students, teachers

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Sebastian and Gabriel Saxon wake up at the same time every day and log into online classes. Sebastian has Cerebral palsy and is diagnosed with autism. Gabriel has hearing loss and wears hearing aids.

The twins’ mother, Judi Saxon, said that Google Meet, the platform used to conduct online classes, has worked well for her sons, who are freshmen in high school this year.

“They’re both rule followers,” Saxon said. “They like routine.”

Saxon said she is involved in her sons’ education and the special needs community. Her husband, Michael Saxon, sits on the Board of Directors of Special Olympics Virginia. She said that switching to all virtual learning was an adjustment, but it had a positive effect on her teenage sons.

“Our family is pretty low-key, and our boys are not super sports fans, and they don’t have a lot of extracurricular activities,” she said. “So they weren’t really missing out on that. And they are homebodies, so they really enjoyed it.”

The COVID-19 era has restructured education for everyone, especially students with disabilities. The lack of peer interaction has negatively impacted some students with disabilities, while allowing others to thrive in the digital classroom, according to parents and educators.

The Virginia Department of Education reported a decrease in fall term enrollment for all students, including students with disabilities. Enrollment for students without and with disabilities declined by 3% and 4% respectively from 2019 to 2020 academic years, according to VDOE.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced guidelines in June for the phased reopening of pre-K through 12th-grade schools for the 2020-2021 academic year. The announcement prioritized special education students to return to in-person education before other groups.

But many school districts, including Richmond, opted to remain remote since the beginning of the school year. Some districts are allowing only students with disabilities to return to in-person learning. VDOE Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Samantha Hollins said that for students with disabilities, the virtual learning environment may be more of a challenge.

State and public agencies are required to provide early intervention, special education, and related services nationally to more than 6.5 million people with disabilities, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The VDOE oversees special education for children and youth with disabilities between ages 3 to 21.

“It has become more challenging of course, but the students’ rights remain,” said VDOE spokesman Charles B. Pyle. “The services that are required to be provided to those students who do not go on holiday because of the pandemic.”

Local school divisions offer special programs and resources for students with disabilities, but remote education may be inaccessible during the pandemic for such students who rely on hands-on education, according to Hollins. There are almost 168,000 students with disabilities in Virginia public schools, according to VDOE’s latest enrollment numbers. Disabilities range from intellectual and emotional to hearing and visual impairments, including the deaf and blind, Hollins said.

“Certain populations of students are more at-risk and not able to access virtual learning or remote education as easily as other students, for example, students with disabilities,” Hollins said.

“When you talk about students with disabilities, there is a pretty wide group of those students.”

Students are often required to attend multiple courses per day via Zoom or Google Meet, including out-of-class assignments. Hollins said her department has provided a lot of information on assistive technology. For example, virtual education may be accessible to a hearing-impaired student with screen reader software.

“Students who have a visual disability, or blind, or a hearing impairment, or deaf, will require special tools to be loaded onto their Chromebook,” Hollins said.

The VDOE sponsors training and technical assistance centers across the state to provide support to teachers test-driving new technology, Hollins said. Public and private special education schools have a collaborative approach to improve educational services for students during COVID-19. According to VDOE, technology provided to public schools is accessible to private educational facilities.

“We’ve had countless meetings with public schools during these difficult times,” said Sarah Ulmer, principal of Grafton School in Midlothian.

Grafton Integrated Health Network is a nonprofit with group homes and schools serving students with autism, intellectual disabilities, and mental health challenges, according to its website.

Seventy-four students are enrolled on the Midlothian campus, Ulmer said. During the COVID-19 mandated closure, students with disabilities received in-person instruction from their residential group homes, while teachers provided virtual instruction to students who do not live on-campus.

Although Grafton School reopened its community day school to in-person instruction five days a week, many parents have not sent their children to school, Ulmer said.

“Our students benefit from learning with hands-on activities,” Ulmer said. “The teachers and clinicians have worked hard to create work activities that are sent home to our students to complete with their families.”

Distance learning plans at the school include individualized sessions throughout the week with the student’s teacher and assigned therapists.

Many educators as well as parents have differing views on online platforms being used for virtual education. Some also question how effective online education is as a whole and said it is a struggle for teachers and students.

Donna Marshall, a special education teacher at Lakeside Elementary in Henrico County. Photo courtesy of Capital News Service

Donna Marshall, a special education teacher at Lakeside Elementary in Henrico County, said that both she and many of her students have had issues with the online format.

“It was very difficult for them at first,” Marshall said. “This is such a change for them. Many of them need different things like sensory breaks, and it’s really hard for them to just sit in front of a computer.”

The primary platform Marshall and her students use is Microsoft Teams. She said that while it works well in business settings, she believes that it is less effective in a classroom setting due to audio issues.

Marshall said that some of her students have done well with virtual education, but the format has had a negative impact on other students.

“I have seen several kids majorly regress because they don’t have the in-person connection,” she said.

Marjorie Loya, a Special Olympics coach and a retired special education teacher from Chesterfield County who is now a substitute teacher, said the biggest concern she has for the children learning virtually is the lack of interaction with peers.

“They just don’t see the other kids, which is the shame,” she said. “That’s the big piece that I see that they’re missing. They’re interacting with adults, but they’re not interacting with their peers.”

Loya said she believes that online education in the special needs community is ineffective, especially in the long run.

“I don’t think it’s very good at all because there are so many things, so many aspects that you can’t deliver services for,” she said. “Virtually, you just can’t do it. One of the biggest issues that people with autism have is interacting with other people, and now we’re taking almost all of that away and putting a computer between them.”

Anteal Gargiulo, a special education teacher at Goochland High School in Goochland, said that while some students she teaches have adapted well, others are struggling with the lack of structure and in-person interaction.

“My autistic kids that I thought were going to have the biggest issues actually have been more outgoing and verbal because they are on the computer, by themselves, and in their own space,” she said. “For other kids, the lack of structure has really thrown them.”

As a whole, virtual learning “has not been the best thing” for the special needs community because many students are used to teachers being physically present to help them, Gargiulo said.

“On a case-by-case basis, it’s been good for a couple of our autistic kids. As far as the rest of the kids, it has been a struggle because they don’t have the teachers right there with them.”

By Hunter Britt and India Jones
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – December 2, 2020

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response.

Highlights include:

  • vaccine for the coronavirus “extremely hopeful”
  • first vaccine shipment for health care workers; residents of long-term care facilities
  • continue to wear masks; practice social distancing
  • watching for post-Thanksgiving surge in cases
  • hospitals have surge plans in place if needed
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Virginia Redistricting Committee takes shape; public can apply

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More than half a dozen legislators have been named to a bipartisan redistricting commission that seeks to fairly draw congressional and state legislative districts.

The commission will be made up of 16 people. Half of them will be legislators and the other half will be Virginia citizens.

Virginia legislative leaders chose four Republicans and four Democrats this week to sit on the committee. Democrats include Dels. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond and Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, plus Sens. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and George Barker, D-Fairfax. The Republicans on the committee are Dels. Les Adams, R-Chatham, and Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland, as well as Sens. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, and Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg.

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, the speaker of the Virginia House and one of the officials responsible for naming the legislative members of the commission, announced her appointments on Nov. 30. Filler-Corn said in a statement that McQuinn and Simon are “committed to inclusion” and “dedicated to a fair redistricting process that protects the vote of every Virginian.”

House Republican Leader Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in a statement that his appointees “will help craft what the voters have demanded — fair maps for every Virginian.”

Almost 66% of Virginians voted last month in support of an amendment to establish the commission, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. Days after the election, state lawmakers agreed to a $135 billion revised budget that included setting up the commission. The previous law stated that the General Assembly and the governor had total control over redistricting.

The majority of congressional and state legislative districts in Virginia were redrawn after the 2010 U.S. Census when Republicans controlled both chambers of the General Assembly and the executive branch. The maps are scheduled to be redrawn again next year with final census counts. However, the U.S. Census Bureau requested a delay to submit redistricting data to states no later than July 31, 2021, instead of April 1.

Erin Dodson, a 20-year-old from Sussex County, is one of more than 2.7 million Virginians who voted for the amendment. He said that getting Virginians more involved was a step in the right direction.

“I feel like it’s only fair that the people are heard,” Dodson said. “This is America; freedom of speech and government involvement is what we’re all about.”

New legislative district maps approved by the commission would go to the General Assembly for a vote. If any are rejected, the commission would be required to produce new maps. If rejected again, the Virginia Supreme Court would establish the new districts.

The state also started accepting applications this week for residents who want to serve on the commission. Retired circuit court judges will choose the citizen members.

In order to be considered, citizens must have lived in Virginia for the past three years. They also must have voted in at least two of the last three general elections. Citizens who hold, have held or sought to hold a political position or public office will not be considered, nor will lobbyists or people who have served as lobbyists in the last five years. Three letters of recommendation are also required to be considered for an appointment.

The applications are due by December 28. Click here for the application.

By Hunter Britt
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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Valley Health, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield announce new network agreement; ensures members continued in-network access to Valley Health caregivers and services

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After working for several months on a new contract, Valley Health and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield today announced a new agreement that will keep Valley Health physicians and hospitals in Anthem’s provider networks. Details of the new agreement were not disclosed.

Mark Nantz, Valley Health System’s President, and Chief Executive Officer

“We are pleased to announce a new long-term agreement with Anthem that ensures in-network access to the physicians and caregivers our patients know and trust,” said Valley Health President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Nantz. “We recognize negotiations have been stressful for our patients and are pleased to bring this matter to a close.”

Anthem is the largest health insurer in Virginia and it was essential that Valley Health reach an agreement to serve thousands of community members who rely on Anthem or other Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates for their health insurance.

“We appreciate Anthem’s trust in Valley Health as their partner and their willingness to make the investment in high-quality healthcare for their members,” Nantz said.

The new agreement provides Anthem customers uninterrupted, in-network access to Valley Health caregivers and services through 2023.

“Prioritizing the health of our communities is more important than ever, which is why we are pleased to have reached this agreement, which protects affordability for consumers and ensures our members have access to quality care at Valley Health,” said Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield President Jeff Ricketts. “We value this continued partnership with Valley as we work together to tackle the current pandemic and improve lives and communities here in Virginia.”

Valley Health encourages patients with any additional questions to call 1-866-414-4576. Anthem members can call Member Services using the phone number on the back of their member I.D. card.

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American Cancer Society asks for support for #GivingTuesday and beyond

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In the midst of a devastating pandemic, Americans are facing  unprecedented challenges. This is especially true for the 1.8 million Americans diagnosed with cancer during 2020.  In addition to being especially vulnerable to coronavirus, more than one of every four cancer patients and survivors had delays in care due to COVID-19, which has upended lives and uniquely challenged cancer patients, survivors and their families.  Patients have had to go through treatment alone and the need to quarantine has created isolation.  To fill this void, the American Cancer Society added face-to-face video chats to its free, 24-hour cancer hotline that provides cancer support and resources at 1-800-227-2345.

COVID-19 has placed the American Cancer Society (ACS) in crisis for the first time in the Society’s 107-year history, creating a $200 million shortfall in fundraising, reducing cancer research funding by 50% this year, and challenging the Society’s ability to provide cancer patients and their caregivers support during an unprecedented time.

Nancy Marx, an American Cancer Society volunteer, has been the primary caregiver to her best friend Pat Burger, who was treated for breast cancer during COVID-19.  “No one could go in with my friend to support her during her treatment.  Her sister, her husband and I had to quarantine so we could safely take care of her.  Other family couldn’t come visit.  When she finished radiation treatment and rang the bell at the cancer center, no family or friends were with her.  All her conferences with doctors and the cancer team were virtual.  I was so upset for her.”

Caregivers, not only cancer patients, need support during the stress of a cancer journey.  Nancy, a long-time Relay For Life participant, called the American Cancer Society’s 800 number cancer hotline for support.  “The 800 number is there for everything you want to know about cancer.  I didn’t understand certain medical terms and new medicines.  The Society’s trained cancer specialists are there to talk and help.  I felt much better after my call,” said Nancy.

On #GivingTuesday and throughout the month of December, the Society is asking for the public’s support.  ACS is the largest non-profit funder of cancer research outside the federal government and provides vital services addressing health disparities and round-the-clock patient support despite the times.  Due to the pandemic’s crippling impact, cancer patients, caregivers and survivors are turning to the American Cancer Society for information and resources to navigate COVID-19.

To donate to the American Cancer Society on #GivingTuesday or throughout the month of December, go to: cancer.org or go to Warren County/Front Royal Relay For Life at www.relayforlife.org/warrenva and donate locally to the American Cancer Society.

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Edward Jones financial advisor Bret Hrbek receives Spirit of Caring Award

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Bret Hrbek of the financial services firm Edward Jones in Front Royal recently received the firm’s exclusive Spirit of Caring Award designed to recognize those financial advisors who exemplify the values, culture and spirit of giving back.

Hrbek is a leader in the firm and an example of what a dedicated Edward Jones financial advisor can achieve. He has demonstrated unyielding dedication to giving back to his clients, community, other financial advisors, branch teams and their regional network.

Hrbek said he is honored to receive the award.

“Edward Jones is a partnership. That structure is not just financial, it’s a philosophy,” Hrbek said. “We work together, help each other and all share in the rewards of working with long-term individual investors. That brings out the best in everyone.”

Hrbek was one of only 295 of the firm’s more than 19,000 financial advisors to receive the award.

Bret Hrbek’s office is located at 986 John Marshall Highway, Front Royal, Virginia.

Edward Jones, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in St. Louis, provides financial services in the U.S. and, through its affiliate, in Canada. Every aspect of the firm’s business, from the investments offered to the location of branch offices, caters to individual investors. The firm’s 19,000-plus financial advisors serve more than 7 million clients with a total of $1.2 trillion in client assets under care. Visit edwardjones.com or the recruiting website at careers.edwardjones.com. Member SIPC.

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Upcoming Events

Dec
5
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all-day Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Dec 5 all-day
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Why should Small Business Saturday just be celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Buy Local – Shop Local – Eat Local – Support Front Royal’s Small Business Community and stay local! Small Business Saturdays –[...]
7:00 am 64th Annual Pancake Day @ Warren County High School
64th Annual Pancake Day @ Warren County High School
Dec 5 @ 7:00 am – 1:00 pm
64th Annual Pancake Day @ Warren County High School
The Kiwanis Club of Front Royal is celebrating its 75 anniversary this year and are committed to holding the annual Pancake Day fundraising event. This event raises significant funds which are put back directly into[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 5 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
7:00 pm Rotary Club Cash Fair @ Online Event
Rotary Club Cash Fair @ Online Event
Dec 5 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Rotary Club Cash Fair @ Online Event
It’s that time of year for Rotary Club of Front Royal’s annual Cash Fair, and we are going virtual this year due to COVID. This is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year and[...]
Dec
6
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all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 6 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 6 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
13
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all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 13 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 13 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
19
Sat
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 19 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
20
Sun
all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 20 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]