With just days left before pandemic assistance for some former foster youth expires, at least two states are moving quickly to use unspent funds to bolster support to people that have already been deemed eligible.
California confirmed to Youth Services Insider late last week that 18- to 20-year-olds who had already received assistance checks of $600 would get an additional $300. Those between 21 and 27 would get another $1,076.
In Iowa, current and former foster youth who already received a $750 payment will now receive an additional $500. And for those between 18 and 22, the state extended the deadline to apply for cash assistance until late June.
Washington, which outsourced its direct assistance program to local nonprofit Treehouse, has also initiated a second round of funds for previous recipients. Washington’s first round of payments went out in five tiers based on the severity of the need expressed by applicants. The second round will be more uniform, Treehouse leaders said, with larger payments going to those who indicated they were experiencing homelessness or who are parenting
The second round of payments is an effort to get as much of the federal assistance out the door before a significant deadline at the end of this week. In December, Congress approved a $400 million assistance package for young adults in foster care or who had recently exited the system, urging states to use some or all of their portions to provide direct aid.
The age ceiling for eligibility has been 27. But on Friday, it drops to 21 in some states and 23 in others, depending on their independent living arrangements with the federal government.
But states have struggled to get checks or debit cards out to eligible former foster youth since the funding was released in February. Many were slow to formalize a plan for distributing the funds, and others had to wait for legislatures to sign off on the use of the money. Michigan’s child welfare agency has had a plan to send out the assistance for months, for example, but waited until mid-September for the legislature to OK it.
And virtually every state has struggled to reach older former foster youth who could claim the assistance. When California announced its program this summer, it projected that about 31,000 people could receive a state-issued debit card. The number who were approved by the state’s early September deadline was 12,435.
There is an effort afoot in Congress to quickly pass an extender bill that would give states another year to find more former foster youth and connect them with cash assistance or other forms of support with their pandemic funds. The bill would also delay for a year the end of the moratorium on aging out of foster care, which is also set to end on Friday. Advocates for older foster youth say that 18,000 people could be forced to exit the system on that one day.
Note: This article was updated to include details about Washington’s plan for a second round.