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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

U.S. Rep. Lawrence, Congressional Foster Youth Caucus Co-Chairs Introduce Legislation to Provide Emergency Relief to Older Foster Youth

September 9, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC - U.S. Congresswoman Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI), along with Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE), and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), introduced legislation to double emergency support for foster youth under the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program to $800 million and extend programmatic flexibilities through the 2022 fiscal year.

This legislation will 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 will also ensure that any direct financial assistance received through the Chafee program cannot be used to determine eligibility for other federal benefits.

“Our foster youth have been disproportionately hurt by this COVID-19 crisis. With a limited support system, many are going hungry, facing unemployment, and experiencing homelessness. Congress needs to step up and support some of our most vulnerable constituents,” said Rep. Lawrence. “I’m grateful to work with my Congressional Foster Youth Caucus Co-Chairs to introduce a bipartisan bill that will provide the emergency relief our foster youth desperately need and deserve. No one should be left behind during this pandemic.” 

The legislation will also:

  • Allow states to access emergency funding without providing proof that expenses have a direct connection to the pandemic;
  • Waive requirement that a student must be enrolled or making satisfactory progress in a postsecondary education or training program to receive Education and Training Voucher (ETV) funds;
  • Allow ETV funds to cover additional costs, beyond the cost of attendance, to help youth remain enrolled in higher education;
  • Allow states to use more than 30% of their Chafee funds on room and board and expand eligibility for housing assistance;
  • Affirm that Chafee funds may be used to provide driving and transportation assistance.

“Housing evictions, food insecurity, mental health treatment and unemployment are all critical concerns young people from foster care are facing today. Many have nowhere to turn - no families and no safe haven,” said Celeste Bodner, Executive Director, FosterClub. “The Chafee Extension Bill is absolutely crucial to ensure pandemic aid is available and flexibilities are extended so young people in and from foster care have what they need to survive and thrive.”

“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.”

“The much-needed pandemic relief approved by Congress for foster youth is just now reaching some young people. Many will not receive help if deadlines in the original legislation are not extended. All of us at Youth Villages are supporting efforts to help states identify eligible foster youth and provide relief as quickly as possible,” said Youth Villages CEO, Pat Lawler. “But, Congress needs to act now to allow more time to reach the foster youth who need help most. We endorse this legislation and will work with Congress to help foster youth overcome challenges and reach their full potential.”

Organizations in Support of the Extender Bill

ACTION Ohio, California Youth Connection, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Children’s Advocacy Institute, Children’s Defense Fund, Children’s Law Center of California, Children’s Rights, First Focus Campaign for Children, Foster Care Alumni of America, PA Chapter, FosterClub, FosterStrong, John Burton Advocates for Youth, Juvenile Law Center, National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, National Center for Youth Law, National Crittenton, National Foster Youth Institute, iFoster, National Association of Counsel for Children, Partners for Our Children of the University of Washington, Think of Us, Youth Fostering Change, Youth Law Center, and Youth Villages.