Last week, several groups presented on the provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act that passed in December containing the bipartisan Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act (H.R. 7947). On Wednesday, February 3, the Juvenile Law Center and FosterClub hosted a webinar centered around distributing the COVID relief funds to youth across America. On Thursday, February 4, the National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI) hosted a Joint Congressional Town Hall with Chairman Danny Davis (D-IL) and Ranking Member Jackie Walorski (R-IN) to discuss H.R. 7947.
Sixto Cancel, director of Think Of Us, spoke about how youth need as much flexibility as possible with how to spend this money. Along with money in their hands, youth need support with navigating the challenges of this pandemic. Agencies working with youth should be ready to offer support, not just distribute funds.
There are several different methods that states can consider to get this money to youth as far as distribution. Some of the most widely considered are direct deposits, Venmo, check, prepaid cards, Facebook Pay, Paypal, and CashApp. One speaker noted that GiftOGram, a digital gift card that lets you choose vendors available and not available, worked well for her agency in the past.
Panelists discouraged the use of mail to get funds out since many youth eligible for this aid have unstable housing situations. Panelists all agreed that virtual payments are best for fund distribution. The use of incentive funding was mentioned for the distribution process as well. Speakers noted that since many youth are tired of filling out more paperwork to be eligible for aid, getting $100 extra in funds proves as an incentive for participation.
The town hall with the Ways and Means leadership and NFYI allowed for young people and providers to ask questions about the funding, timeline, and more. One attendee asked what the funding was for, and Chairman Davis explained this was for direct assistance to young people during the pandemic. He stated that “services would be just as good as cash [given directly to young people].” In addition, Chairman Davis explained that his and Ranking Member Walorski’s goal behind this bill was to support youth during this time with tangibly financial aid. Although Congresswoman Walorski was not able to attend due to the Ethics Committee meeting at the time of the session, her staffer encouraged the attendees to advocate with their state legislature especially, as they are going through the state budget process.
If your state or agency needs information on developing a plan for direct financial assistance, click here for a toolkit to get you started.