U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and several other members of Congress have introduced legislation to double emergency support to $800 million for foster youth under the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program, and extend programmatic flexibilities through the 2022 fiscal year.
The legislation would allow youth to access Chafee services until age 27, extend the moratorium on “aging out” of foster care and enable youth who left care during the pandemic to re-enter care. It would also ensure that any direct financial assistance received through the Chafee program cannot be used to determine eligibility for other federal benefits.
“This issue is absolutely urgent,” Bass said. “The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth has been hearing from young people across the country that they haven’t received desperately-needed relief due to the spread of the Delta variant. It is incumbent upon Congress to extend Chafee COVID relief for foster youth and flexibilities for states through September 2022. This bill also includes an extension of the moratorium on aging out of foster care during the pandemic and appropriates additional relief and support for states to extend the moratorium on aging out of care. I urge my colleagues to support the young people that have been placed in the government’s care and support this bipartisan legislation.”
The legislation would also allow states to access emergency funding without providing proof that expenses have a direct connection to the pandemic; waive requirements that a student must be enrolled or making satisfactory progress in a postsecondary education or training program to receive Education and Training Voucher funds; and allow those funds to cover additional costs, beyond the cost of attendance, to help youth remain enrolled in higher education.
Further, it would allow states to use more than 30% of their Chafee funds on room and board and expand eligibility for housing assistance and affirm that Chafee funds may be used to provide driving and transportation assistance.
“The pandemic has intensified every inequity for youth exiting foster care to crisis levels – homelessness, unemployment, physical and mental health crises and poverty. Far too many youth have not yet received the assistance they desperately need from The Supporting Foster Youth and Families Act through the Pandemic Act,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, the executive director of the Youth Law Center. “We owe youth who are struggling alone with the devastating impacts of the pandemic more time to get the assistance they were promised.”
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