On September 13, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague Letter” to Chief State School Officers asking States to consider modifying their administrative procedures to expedite spending American Rescue Plan Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) funds. The letter also updates the allowable uses of funds to meet urgent needs. It clarifies that ARP-HCY funds may be used for the following activities, among many others.
The updated guidance responds to some of the concerns raised in a letter sent to ED by 20 organizations last month, as well as to concerns raised by school district homeless liaisons and state coordinators during SHC’s “Office Hours with ED” sessions in June and July. The letter also was informed by SHC’s youth scholars, who shared their experiences and needs with ED officials in June.
Motel stays of longer than three days if “reasonable and necessary” to allow children and youth to attend school, and as a last resort when other funding resources are not available.
Paying for a few nights in a motel stabilizes the living situation of students while longer-term housing arrangements are sought, thus helping students be able to participate fully in school.
School district business offices can help by using procedures to ensure funds are tracked and used appropriately, and any liability issues are addressed.
The purchase of vehicles by local educational agencies (LEAs) for the specialized transportation of homeless children and youth, as well as reimbursing parents and youth for gas costs, purchasing prepaid gas cards, and paying for limited car repairs if such costs are reasonable and necessary.
Lack of transportation is a tremendous obstacle to regular school attendance and success for children and youth experiencing homelessness. Without reliable transportation, regular school attendance is impossible, and contributes to high chronic absence rates among these students
Providing food assistance if it is reasonable and necessary to assist homeless students to take advantage of educational and extracurricular opportunities when food is not available to the student through other sources (e.g., free school meals).
Children and youth experiencing homelessness often lack basic items needed to attend school and participate fully in school activities: clothing, shoes, food, laundry, hygiene supplies, and school supplies. WIthout these items, they miss school and can become disengaged from their education, contributing to chronic absence, poor academic performance, and higher dropout rates.
California’s Homeless Education Technical Assistance Center offers sample forms, letters, and procedures for making the most of store cards/pre-paid debit cards.
Providing early childhood education to young children age birth to five who are not formally enrolled in the LEA, but who are experiencing homelessness in the LEA. During the Info Session, ED further elaborated that activities to transition children to kindergarten, coordinating screenings, referrals, activities to determine eligibility for subsidy, and early intervention services (including transportation to those services) are examples of other allowable early childhood activities.
Ensuring young children experiencing homelessness are connected to early childhood development opportunities is critical and can help mitigate the traumatic, often long-term impacts of homelessness. K12 school districts have a unique role to play in identifying and referring younger siblings of school aged children to high-quality early childhood development programs.
Assisting youth and their parents/guardians with completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and many other college readiness and college access activities, adding staff hours to provide such assistance, and providing transportation so that homeless youth may participate in these activities.
Some form of postsecondary education is increasingly necessary to obtain employment that pays enough to afford housing and maintain stability. Higher education is thus a critical factor in ending the cycle of homelessness and improving the health and overall well-being of youth experiencing homelessness.
⚙️ Resources from SchoolHouse Connection
We have compiled ARP-HCY resources on this page to help state and local educational agencies make the most of this historic opportunity to serve some of our nation’s most vulnerable students.
📰 Read What Politico Has to Say
““Given the pressing needs of students experiencing homelessness, and with just 12 months remaining to obligate [American Rescue Plan] funds, please evaluate whether modifying State and/or local administrative processes, such as budget amendment and procurement processes, might expedite the deployment of these resources,” department acting Assistant Secretary Adam Schott wrote Tuesday in a letter to state school leaders that included new information on some widely-used expenses.”