Emergency Relief for Youth in Foster Care Included in Updated HEROES Act

two children in covid-19 face masks

Juvenile Law Center applauds this successful bipartisan effort, urges the Senate to pass the bill

Philadelphia, PA (October 1, 2020): Democrats in the House of Representatives this week introduced the updated HEROES Act, a comprehensive relief bill, which among many other items includes critical emergency assistance to young people in and from foster care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past six months, young people with lived experience in foster care have been advocating through the #UpChafee campaign (a social media campaign to increase Chafee funding during the pandemic) for COVID relief; however, to date, no assistance has been directed to this population and they continue to struggle.

In August, House Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny Davis (D-IL) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackie Walorski (R-IN) introduced the bipartisan Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act (H.R. 7947). The bill currently has 44 co-sponsors, evenly split between both parties. The bill will help young adults who have aged out of foster care and do not have family to rely on during the pandemic. The bill:

  • Provides $400 million in Chafee funds, which will help youth with housing, education, employment, financial management, emotional support and support services;
  • Expands Chafee eligibility through age 26;
  • Waives education/work requirements for extended foster care during the pandemic;
  • Removes the 30% cap on room and board;
  • Increases the Education and Training Voucher (ETV) grant from $5,000 to $12,000 per individual per year; and
  • Places a moratorium on aging out of foster care (and allows for re-entry into care).

All of the provisions of HR 7947 have been included in this newest House version of the HEROES Act. “Young people from foster care continue to tell lawmakers that they are struggling, especially in terms of loss of jobs, housing, school and meeting their basic needs,” said Celeste Bodner, Executive Director, FosterClub. "The support included in the Updated HEROES Act reflects a bipartisan effort to ensure young people in and from foster care can weather COVID-19 and get back on track with their lives.”

Jenny Pokempner, Senior Attorney at Juvenile Law Center added, “The fact that these provisions were included in the updated bill is a testament to the advocacy of young people across the country. It is encouraging to see that law makers did not just listen to young people, but took decisive action. The Senate now must act so we can ensure that relief does get to youth in foster in care.”

About the Expert

Jennifer Pokempner is a Senior Attorney at Juvenile Law Center. At Juvenile Law Center, her work focuses on improving outcomes and opportunities for older youth in the foster care system through policy and legal advocacy at the local, state, and national levels.