California will use its share of a federal pandemic assistance fund to provide millions of dollars to young people currently in the state’s extended foster care system, and those who have left in the past four years.
According to the nonprofit Think of Us, which will receive applications for the assistance and refer them to the Department of Social Services, the state will issue $600 to those eligible up to age 21, and $1,500 for former foster youth between the ages of 21 and 26. The state has estimated that nearly 31,000 people are eligible for the cards, about half in each age group.
The application process for the pandemic relief is already open, and can be accessed here. The funds will be delivered through prepaid cards.
Under the relief plan, the payments are available to young adults living outside of the state but who spent time in California extended foster care. Current or former foster youth who are living in California, but spent time in another state’s extended foster care system, are also eligible.
Think of Us, a national nonprofit that has created a portal for current and former foster youth across the country to see what pandemic assistance their state is offering, is already gathering applications for California.
The organization’s CEO, Sixto Cancel, said that they have already received 1,445 applications — and after excluding 237 applications that need additional verification — there are about $1.3 million worth of eligible recipients.
The funds for the prepaid cards come from a $400 million pot included in the COVID-19 stimulus bill signed by former president Donald Trump last December. The funds were divided up among states proportionally to their foster care populations, and sent out in early 2021. California received the most money of any state, $55.1 million.
The California Department of Finance recently announced a plan to use $9.3 million to shore up its college assistance grants for foster foster youth, and another $4 million to connect former foster youth with housing vouchers through the recently established federal Foster Youth to Independence program.
The window to access the funds is not long. The deadline to seek eligibility for the prepaid cards is Sept. 3, and the state will stop issuing them on Sept. 30, which is the federal cutoff for anyone older than 22 to access the pandemic assistance money.
The Think for Us portal, called Check for Us, will serve as the official front door for California applicants, its representatives said. The organization is partnering with California Youth Connection, an advocacy group that was instrumental in pushing for the $400 million assistance package, to raise awareness and conduct outreach campaigns to solicit applicants.
“Reaching the Sept. 3 deadline is going to be difficult,” Cancel said. “If we don’t mobilize, we won’t reach everyone on such a short time frame.”
On an Instagram Live announcement, California Youth Connection Executive Director Janay Eustace urged viewers to share news of the assistance payments “far and wide to let young people know where to go.”