The Consolidated Appropriations Act provides funding for public educational agencies to address needs of foster youth, including supplemental activities like after-school programs or summer learning. This provision provides support to educators to implement evidence-based practices, tracking attendance, and engagement with distance education.
This Act includes the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act (H.R.7947). Several provisions in H.R. 7947 support former foster youth in higher education programs. It provides for an additional $50 million dollars for Education and Training Voucher (ETV) programs and raises the yearly award amount from $5,000 to $12,000 per student until September 30th, 2022. There is now more flexibility in what ETV can be used for, and youth no longer must maintain satisfactory academic progress to continue receiving the award. Additionally, if youth are unable to enroll in postsecondary education due to COVID-19, they may still be eligible for ETV funding. The age limit for ETV funding is now 27. This will continue through October 1st, 2021.
Financial aid administrators now have discretion to adjust cost of attendance, values used to calculate student financial aid need, and values used to calculate Pell grant award amounts. Administrators can do so on a case-by-case basis and with adequate documentation as to why the change is needed. No additional fee will be charged for students who request these reviews.
Additionally, the Act increases the maximum Pell grant award to $6,495 (previously $6,345). The provision allows incarcerated students to receive Pell grants, greatly simplifies the FAFSA form, and forgives $1.3 billion in loans made to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
There will be a 100% federal match for CHAFE and ETV appropriations.
Preventing Aging Out of Foster Care During the Pandemic
In addition, if a foster youth ages out of care during the pandemic, H.R.7947 stipulates they cannot be required to leave foster care simply due to their age, nor can they be denied voluntary re-entry into care. Youth must be notified of the option to return to care if they aged out during 2020-2021 and will continue to be eligible for foster care payments. This provision extends to September 30th, 2021.
Other Support for Older Foster Youth
The Act also appropriates up to $500,000 to states to implementing driving and transportation programs for foster youth. Funds may be used for youth over age 15 to pay for licenses, insurance costs, and assistance purchasing a vehicle. Funds cannot exceed $4000 per youth, per year. This section may be beneficial for youth who need transportation assistance and are unable to use their ETV or other financial aid funding to do so.
Another provision in the appropriations bill will assist youth aging out of the foster care system. Public housing agencies that provide timely assistance to eligible youth, including those who aged out of foster care, are eligible for assistance through this provision. If a youth is complying with certain housing programs, they can have housing assistance extended for up to 24 months.
The Act also waives limitations on the amount of funds allowed for housing assistance. States can now use more than 30% of Federal allotment for room and board payments. It expands eligibility for room and board payments to all former foster youth aged 18 and older who have experienced foster care after age 14, even if they did not age out of care. These eligibility requirements apply until September 30th, 2021.
$5 million is also aimed toward expanding housing units for elderly caregivers of children.
A total of $85 million in emergency aid will go towards the Marylee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. $10 million of these funds will be invested in technology, trainings on remote hearings, and programs to help prevent delays during family legal proceedings related to COVID-19. $500,000 of these funds are reserved for Tribal court improvements.
Kinship Navigator Programs
This act temporarily waives the evidence-based requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic, so that programs can more easily assist kinship caregivers. Additionally, $20 million in funding will be dispersed to improve programs. Title IV-E funds for these services will receive a 100% federal reimbursement. Funds can be used for kinship navigator programs, including support for direct service, providing access to information and resources for necessities, access to technology, health care assistance, and more.
Other Supports for Children and Families
Virtual visits for home visiting programs will be considered the same as in-person visits to continue providing higher levels of safety for employees and families. This ensures that funding for the program will not be affected by reduced enrollment due to the pandemic. Funding for programs can be used for training on virtual visits and other emergency supports for families.
Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) will receive $50 million in funding. The Project creates a partnership between state educational agencies and state mental health agencies to increase awareness and training regarding mental health issues among school-aged youth. Additionally, the project helps connect children and their families to needed mental health services.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network will also receive additional funding. The act provides $10 million for the Network, which aims to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who have experienced traumatic events.
The Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse will receive $2.75 million. The Clearinghouse oversees research and services providing support to children and families to prevent foster care placements.