The first session of the 115th Congress has come to a close. Many bills on child, youth, and family homelessness were introduced in 2017, and will continue to make their way through the legislative process next year. While issues like tax, immigration, entitlement spending, and welfare reform may have significant impacts on homeless children and youth, we’ve summarized twelve of the bills that affect children and youth experiencing homelessness most directly, starting with SchoolHouse Connection’s top legislative priorities.
OUR TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
- Programs that Provide Targeted Funding for Homeless Children and Youth.
- Summary: FY2018 funding for the only two federal programs specifically targeted to supporting homeless children and youth – the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth program (EHCY) and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs – hangs in the balance of the broader budget debate. Both House and Senate FY2018 appropriations bills provided flat funding for these programs ($77 million and $119 million, respectively).
- Current status: Congress has delayed decisions on FY2018 funding until January 19, 2018, when the most recently passed Continuing Resolution will expire.
- Action Needed: We urge you to communicate with your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative in support of EHCY and RHYA funding. We’ve created a sample letter in Microsoft Word. Download the letter, edit it, and send one version to your U.S. Representative, and one version to both of your U.S. Senators.
- Disaster Assistance for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
- Summary: The disasters that occurred in 2017 are increasing the number of homeless children and youth: public schools have enrolled at least 46,000 newly homeless children and youth as a direct result of the 2017 hurricanes alone – a number that is expected to continue to increase. The McKinney-Vento Act’s EHCY program provides an efficient, existing infrastructure to serve these students. However, schools face significant costs in meeting the needs of newly homeless children and youth, including transportation, counseling, basic and school supplies, and staff time.
- Current status: On December 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4667, an $81 billion disaster relief package. As part of $2.9 billion in emergency assistance funding for schools and colleges, the legislation includes $25 million in McKinney-Vento funding to help children and youth who are homeless and displaced due to disasters. The bill also includes $200 million for institutions of higher education located in an area affected by a disaster, with a requirement for the U.S. Department of Education to prioritize assistance for college students who are homeless as a result of displacement, and for institutions that have sustained extensive damage. In addition to education funding, the disaster relief bill contains $650 million for Head Start, for necessary expenses directly related to the consequences of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria.
- The U.S. Senate did not take up the measure before it adjourned, leaving the ultimate fate of the disaster assistance funding to be decided in January. Read more about the need for supplemental disaster assistance to meet the educational needs of homeless children and youth.
- The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act (HEASHFY, S.1795/H.R. 3740).
- Summary: HEASHFY streamlines the financial aid process for homeless and foster youth and requires colleges and universities to designate single points of contact to assist homeless and foster youth, and to develop a plan to assist youth to access housing resources during and between academic terms. Read more about the bill, and watch a SchoolHouse Connection Young Leader testify before the Senate HELP Committee.
- Current status: HEASHFY was introduced on September 12, 2017, with the goal of being incorporated into the larger HEA reauthorization. As of December 2017, this bi-partisan bill has three sponsors in the Senate, and five sponsors in the House.
- Action needed: The current goal for HEASHFY advocacy is to increase the number of co-sponsors in order to signal strong support to the education committees and Congressional leadership. Please urge your Members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors. We’ve created two sample letters in Microsoft Word – one for your U.S. Senators, and one for your U.S. Representative. Please download the letters and personalize them with local or state facts, as well as your own perspectives and experiences. Contact information for U.S. Senators may be found here. Contact information for U.S. Representatives may be found here.
- The Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA, H.R. 1511/S. 611).
- Summary: HCYA reforms HUD Homeless Assistance to meet the needs of homeless children, youth, and families. It allows some of the most vulnerable homeless families and youth – those staying with others because they have nowhere else to go, and those staying in motels – to be eligible for HUD homeless assistance by aligning eligibility criteria with those of other federal programs. HCYA also prohibits HUD from imposing national priorities on local communities for specific program models (like Rapid Rehousing) or specific populations (like chronically homeless adults). It would align HUD homeless assistance with child and youth serving systems, including early childhood programs and public schools. Read more.
- Current status: HCYA was introduced on March 13, 2017. As of December 2017, this bi-partisan bill has five sponsors in the Senate, and seven sponsors in the House.
- Action needed: The current goal for HCYA advocacy is to increase the number of co-sponsors in order to signal strong support to the committees of jurisdiction and Congressional leadership. Please urge your Members of Congress to sign as co-sponsors of /H.R. 1511/S. 611 here. We strongly urge local meetings with your Members to explain what is at stake for children, youth, and families, and why these reforms are necessary in your community. Contact information for U.S. Senators may be found here. Contact information for U.S. Representatives may be found here.
RUNAWAY AND HOMELESS YOUTH ACT REAUTHORIZATION
The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act provides essential outreach, shelter, and other services to unaccompanied homeless youth. Legislation introduced in the previous Congress, the Runaway and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA), is expected to be re-introduced early in 2018. This bi-partisan legislation makes critical updates to RHYA programs, including new provisions to combat trafficking and discrimination, increase the length of stays in Basic Centers from 21 to 30 days, and require RHYA grantees to assist youth with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We support the efforts of our close partners at the National Network for Youth as they take the lead on RHYA reauthorization next year.
OTHER HIGHER EDUCATION BILLS
- The College Student Hunger Act of 2017 (H.R. 3875).
- Summary: The College Student Hunger Act of 2017 would allow college students Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility if they receive the maximum Pell Grant award, are in foster care, are an Armed Forces veteran, or are classified as an unaccompanied youth who is homeless. Under current law, with few exceptions, college students enrolled half-time or more cannot receive SNAP.
- Current status: The College Student Hunger Act of 2017 was introduced on October 27, 2017. As of December 2017, it has 31 co-sponsors.
- H.R. 3742. The Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017.
- Summary: H.R. 3742 authorizes a new grant program in the Higher Education Act administered by the U.S. Department of Education to provide $150 million a year in formula grants to states, tribes, and territories to establish or expand transitions between K-12 and higher education for foster and homeless youth, including summer bridge programs, through statewide initiatives; and to develop “institutions of excellence” committed to serving foster and homeless youth from entrance to completion via robust support services and by covering the remaining cost of attendance beyond federal and state grants.
- Current Status: The Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017 was introduced on September 12, 2017. As of December 2017, it had three co-sponsors.
- The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act (H.R. 4508).
- Summary: The PROSPER Act is the House Republican re-write of the entire Higher Education Act, including student loan, grant, financial aid, data, and college access programs. It does not include any of the reforms for homeless and foster youth that are in The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act (HEASHFY).
- Current status: On December 13, the PROSPER Act passed out of the House Education Committee on a party line vote of 23-17. It may be taken up on the House floor in 2018. The Senate HELP Committee has yet to introduce a comprehensive HEA reauthorization bill, but is expected to do so in 2018.
OTHER K-12 EDUCATION BILLS
- The Preparing Homeless Youth for Education and Employment Act (H.R. 4234).
- Summary: H.R. 4234 authorizes the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth program to award grants for providing dropout prevention services and college and career counseling services. These services can include counseling related to employability skills, the credits needed to graduate and pursue higher education, and exploration of post-secondary opportunities.
- Current status: The Preparing Homeless Youth for Education and Employment Act was introduced on November 3, 2017, and has ten bi-partisan co-sponsors. It could be attached to other legislation in 2018, or move independently.
- The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353).
- Summary: H.R. 2352 reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. It improves access to high-quality career and technical education, including for youth experiencing homelessness. Read more about how the bill would help homeless youth.
- Current status: H.R. 2353 passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously on June 22, 2017. The Senate has yet to take up its Career and Technical Education Act reauthorization legislation, and it is unclear whether it will do so in 2018.
OTHER HOUSING/HUD HOMELESS ASSISTANCE BILLS
- The Help End Abusive Living Situations (HEALS) Act (S. 2230).
- Summary: The HEALS Act requires HUD to improve services for survivors of domestic violence, including by adjusting the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) system to ensure that the priority for domestic violence victims’ transitional housing is equal to that of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program, and ensuring that there are appropriate avenues for defunded transitional housing programs for domestic violence to reapply for funding. Read more.
- Current status: The HEALS Act is bipartisan legislation that was introduced on December 14, 2017. It has two co-sponsors.
- The Affordable Housing for Educational Achievement Demonstration (AHEAD) Act (S. 1949).
- Summary: The AHEAD Act authorizes $150 million for a new demonstration program to be jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Under the program, school districts would apply individually or in consortia with other school districts and local housing authorities for projects to address and prevent child and family homelessness, increase socioeconomic and racial diversity, and increase academic achievement. Read more.
- Current status: The AHEAD Act was introduced by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) on October 12, 2017.