New legislation that would expand Chafee funds and foster care flexibilities is now before Congress. The co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), have introduced a bipartisan bill to extend emergency protections for youth, H.R. 5167. The bill would ensure that vital supports are continued for older foster youth.
The bill 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 for another year.
It will also ensure that any direct financial assistance received through the Chafee program cannot be used to determine eligibility for other federal benefits.
According to the bill's sponsors, the legislation would 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.
The bill has already garnered support from foster care advocates and service providers, including FosterClub, the Children's Defense Fund, and Youth Villages.