House Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Child Welfare Assistance Bill

Leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee last week introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide additional aid to states facing Covid-related budgetary hurdles in child welfare.

The Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act (H.R.7947) is a trimmed down version of similar legislation introduced a month ago in the Senate.

According to a summary published by the Children’s Defense Fund, key provisions include:

  • Support for Older Youth. Provides an additional $400 million for Chafee for FY2020, of which $50 million is reserved for Education and Training Vouchers (ETV).
    • Raises the maximum age for eligibility for assistance to age 27 through FY2021.
    • Increases the maximum allowable amount per individual for ETVs from $5,000 to $12,000 through FY2021.
    • Suspends requirement that a youth be enrolled in a postsecondary education or training program or making satisfactory progress towards completion to be eligible for ETV if youth is unable to do so because of COVID.
    • Clarifies that under these provisions the Chafee ETV vouchers may be used to maintain training and postsecondary education costs.
    • Removes the 30 percent cap in Chafee for housing assistance.
    • Prohibits states from requiring a child to leave foster care solely due to their age to ensure no young person is cut off from critical housing and support services during the public health emergency.
    • Permits youth to re-enter care during the COVID public health emergency.
    • Allows jurisdictions to use the new additional Chafee funds to meet any of the costs incurred in complying with the provisions in this bill. In cases where youth are eligible for Title IV-E foster care funds, federal match of administrative and maintenance costs remains available.
    • Removes the penalty for failing to comply with the data reporting requirements for the National Youth Transition Database for these new funds.
    • Bars HHS from requiring jurisdictions to provide proof of a direct connection to the pandemic for funds used if doing so would be administratively burdensome or would cause delay or impede the ability to serve youth.
    • There is no state match requirement for these additional funds.
    • These changes are in effect until October 1, 2021.
  • Increases the federal reimbursement for the Title IV-E Prevention Programs. Temporarily increases the federal reimbursement rate up from 50% to 100% for the Title IV-E Prevention Program created under Family First for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency period (January 27, 2020 through September 30, 2021).
  • Emergency funding for the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. Provides an additional $85 million in FY2020 to Title IV-B, Part 2 the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. There is no state match requirement for these additional funds.
  • Investments for the Court Improvement Program. Reserves $10 million from the additional Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program funds for the Court Improvement Program, with $500,000 reserved for Tribal court improvement activities. These funds shall be used for activities related to COVID-19, such as technology investments, trainings to facilitate remote hearings, and programs to help families avoid delays in legal proceedings as a result of COVID-19.
  • Strengthening Kinship Navigator Programs. In order to help reach more kinship caregivers raising children, particularly those who are older and more susceptible to the virus, the bill improves the ability of Kinship Navigator Programs to provide critical supports to these families.
    • Temporarily waives the evidence-based requirement tied to Title IV-E reimbursement for these programs through the COVID-19 public health emergency period (January 27, 2020 through September 30, 2021)
    • Allows funds to be used to carry out a kinship navigator program, including:
      • evaluations, independent system review and related activities;
      • short-term support for direct services or assistance; and
      • to ensure that kinship caregivers have the information and resources to allow kinship families to function at their full potential, including access to information and resources for necessities (i.e. food, safety supplies, testing and treatment for COVID-19), access to technology to support remote learning or other activities that must be carried out virtually due to COVID, health care and other assistance (including legal assistance and assistance with making alternative care plans for the children in their care if the caregiver is unable to care for the children), services to kin (including for those outside of the formal child welfare system), and assistance to allow children to continue safely living with kin.
    • There will be 100% federal reimbursement for these funds.
  • Provides flexibilities for home visiting programs to continue serving families safely. Allows virtual home visits to be considered home visits, ensures funding will not be reduced on account of reduced enrollment, and that funds can be used for training on virtual visits, enrolling families, and providing emergency supplies to families. This bill also delays deadlines tied to the MIECHV program, including the statewide needs assessment, waiving performance measures, or allowing alternative data sources to show improvement in performance. Funds made available for FY2018 will now remain available through September 30, 2021.
  • Provides adjustments of funding certainty baselines for the Family First Transition Act funding certainty grants so that temporary FMAP increases don’t reduce grant amounts and offers a technical correction to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to ensure the District of Columbia receives the enhanced FMAP rate.

The full text of the legislation can be found here.

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