On November 3, updated bill text was released for the Build Back Better Act, the Biden Administration’s social spending package.

While negotiations continue and the legislation is likely to change before it is finalized, the details provided so far are cause for hope for children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. SchoolHouse Connection strongly supports this legislation, and urges Congress to pass it quickly.

We provide a high-level summary of provisions that are most closely related to child, youth, and family homelessness, and why they matter.


  • Establishes a new “Birth Through Five Child Care and Early Learning Entitlement” to provide direct child care services for eligible children who are under age six and not yet enrolled in kindergarten.
  • Children experiencing homelessness (as defined by the McKinney-Vento education definition of homelessness), and children in foster care or kinship care, whose families meet income criteria, are categorically eligible. Their parents would not be subject to work, education, or job training requirements.
  • Families with incomes less than 75% of the State median income would not pay any copayments for child care, and families whose income is between 75-100% of state median income would pay no more than 2% of their income as copayment.
  • Each eligible child would receive at least 12 months of services, unless they have aged out of the program.
  • State plans must demonstrate that the State will prioritize increasing access to, and the supply of, child care for underserved populations, specifically children experiencing homelessness and children in foster care.
  • States must award grants or contracts for child care services that address underserved populations, specifically children experiencing homelessness and children in foster care.
  • States would be required to use a portion of their quality child care funding to improve access for vulnerable children, and specifically for children experiencing homelessness and children who are in foster care. 

    • The Secretary must make grants directly to Head Start programs in states that choose not to participate in the new child care program; in so doing, the Secretary must prioritize programs serving or seeking to serve a high percentage of underserved populations, specifically children experiencing homelessness and children in foster care.

    Why these provisions matter

    The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 1 in 18 children under the age of 6 experienced homelessness in 2018-19 — that is 1.3 million children, or approximately 6% of all children under the age of six.  Families experiencing homelessness — including families headed by young parents — need child care if they are to obtain the education, job training, and employment necessary to escape homelessness. At the same time, children experiencing homelessness need safe, high quality child care in order to grow and thrive while their parents are working, or in school or job training. Yet homelessness creates many barriers to accessing and affording child care. While provisions in the Child Care and Development Fund and some state policies address some of these barriers, the overall lack of child care and pandemic-related problems have created system-wide challenges, especially for families experiencing homelessness.

    Universal Preschool

    • Sets up a six-year universal preschool program (with funding provided for the first three years) for three and four year-olds, to be administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the US Department of Education.
    • Includes licensed child care programs, local educational agencies, and Head Start programs as eligible grantees.
    • Requires local grantees to adopt policies and practices to conduct outreach and provide expedited enrollment and prioritization for children experiencing homelessness (as defined by the education subtitle of the McKinney-Vento Act), children in foster care, children with disabilities, dual language learners, and children in families that participate in migrant or seasonal agricultural labor. For grantees that are local educational agencies, policies and procedures must include immediate enrollment for children experiencing homelessness.
    • Requires States to assure that age-appropriate transportation services are provided, at a minimum for children experiencing homelessness and children in foster care.
    • Allows the HHS secretary to expand Head Start programs and award universal preschool grants to schools or local governments in states that do not participate in the program.

    Why these provisions matter

    While homelessness was distributed evenly among grade levels in the 2018-2019 school year, only three percent of children experiencing homelessness were identified in the three to five year-old age group, raising concerns about lack of access to preschool programs — another dynamic that has likely worsened due to the pandemic. Children who have been in quality preschool programs are more likely to graduate from high school, and to own their own homes as adults; they are also significantly more likely to be employed full-time and to have more financial and personal assets by their early forties, both strong protective factors against homelessness. The McKinney-Vento Act specifically addresses many of the barriers to preschool created by homelessness, but it does not address the overall lack of preschool programs and/or capacity to serve all young children —  including those who experience homelessness. Moreover, the McKinney-Vento Act provisions are limited to preschool programs administered by state and local educational agencies. The Build Back Better provisions apply to all preschool programs that receive its funding, and would require states to ensure that age-appropriate transportation is provided to preschool for homeless children and children in foster care.

    Higher Education

    • Increases the maximum Pell Grant financial aid award by $550.
    • Expands eligibility for financial aid programs, including Pell Grants, to individuals with a grant of deferred departure under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, as well as those with temporary protected status (TPS) or deferred enforced departure (DED).
    • Guarantees eligibility for a maximum Pell Grant for FAFSA applicants who in the past 24 months have received (or for dependent students, whose parents have received) a means-tested federal benefit.
    • Provides $700 million over a six-year period to carry out activities related to Career and Technical Education, of which $600,000,000 is for State grants authorized under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

    Why these provisions matter

    Some form of education beyond high school is increasingly necessary to move out of poverty and sustainably exit homelessness. Yet youth experiencing homelessness face barriers in transitioning from secondary to postsecondary education, as well as barriers to financial aid, college retention, and college completion. With histories of trauma and deep poverty, they do not have family resources to fall back on, and they need as much financial aid as possible if they are to access and complete postsecondary education. Funding for career and technical education will help youth experiencing homelessness, who are considered a  “special population” under the CTE program, with additional supports and services.

    Income Assistance

    Extends the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provisions that were included in the American Rescue Plan Act by one year. These provisions:

    • Lower the age that youth from foster care and youth who are homeless can claim the EITC to age 18, and for all young adults, to age 19. 
    • Allow foster and homeless youth to claim the EITC even if they are full-time students and working (the current law prohibits full-time students from claiming EITC). 
    • Increases the maximum credit for a childless claimant in 2021 to from $543 to $1,502. These amounts are indexed for inflation and will be indexed for 2022.

    Child Tax Credit: Provides a one year extension of the increase in the child tax credit (CTC) as enacted in the American Rescue Plan and a continuation of advance payments through 2022. For 2022, the CTC is $3,000 ($3,600 for children under age 6) and $3,000 for children between 6 and 17 years old.

    Why these provisions matter

    By allowing homeless and foster youth to claim the EITC credit during the time they are transitioning to adulthood, the legislation helps to create parity with young adults of the same age who are fortunate enough to be receiving financial support from parents or caregivers. The Child Tax Credit will help cover the cost of food, housing, health care, and transportation for households, and thereby continue to reduce child poverty.

    Child Nutrition

    Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children

    • Expands the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (Summer EBT) program to provide nutrition benefits to eligible low-income children to ensure continued access to food when school is out of session. 
    • The benefit provides $65/month for eligible children through FY2024.

    Why these provisions matter

    Students experiencing homelessness are nearly three times as likely to have not had breakfast each day, compared to their stably housed peers. When school is out of session in the summer, homeless students are even more likely to experience hunger. By expanding Summer EBT, children and youth experiencing homelessness will have increased access to nutrition during the summer months.


    Provides $25 billion in rental assistance. Of this funding:

    • $7.2 billion is provided for individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking
    • $300 million is provided for competitive grants for mobility-related services 
    • $230 million is provided for landlord incentives to participate in the program

    Public Housing

    • $65 billion to preserve public affordable housing infrastructure.

    National Housing Trust Fund

    • $15 billion for activities to support the preservation and creation of new rental homes affordable to the lowest income households.

    Why these provisions matter

    The affordable housing crisis is a significant driver of family homelessness. Communities need a range of housing options and strategies in order to house families with children, youth, and young people with varying needs. It is our hope that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will seek out and listen to the voices of early care, education, and youth and family service providers in implementing these housing funds to achieve the twin goals of housing and educational stability.

    Pin It on Pinterest

    Share This