On December 21, Congress passed a legislative package including over $900 billion for emergency coronavirus relief, and $1.4 trillion for the final fiscal year 2021 (FY21) budget.
The emergency coronavirus funds are intended as a stop-gap measure, providing much-needed immediate relief over the next few months, until the new Congress convenes.
- Among the most impactful long-term, systemic changes in the legislation are:
- Provisions to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), including nearly all of the FAFSA changes advocated for by SHC in the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act. These changes will remove persistent, re-traumatizing barriers to financial aid, and help youth experiencing homelessness and youth from foster care get the aid they need to achieve their higher education goals and build futures free from homelessness. For more details, see our summary: FAFSA Fixes for Homeless and Foster Youth Included in Final Funding Bill.
- Among the most impactful of the short-term provisions are:
- A one-month extension of the CDC’s eviction moratorium, allowing for a longer-term eviction moratorium under the Biden Administration
- Some education and child care funding
- Some rent relief
- Some food assistance
- Among the biggest omissions of the legislation are:
- Failure to include the Emergency Family Stabilization Act (H.R. 7950/S. 3923), which provides flexible funding to community agencies to meet the emergency housing, health, and other needs of children, youth, and families under the broader education definition of homelessness. Homeless families and youth who use their limited income to pay for motels or who stay with others because they fear or can’t find shelter, have been completely shut out of relief efforts. They are not protected by eviction moratoria; they are not eligible for rent relief; and, because they do not meet HUD’s definition of homelessness, they are not eligible for HUD homeless assistance. Yet these families and youth stay in crowded situations where they cannot social distance, must move often, and will continue to be at risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19, as well as face violence, harm, and educational loss. Congress must include EFSA in the next package to be taken up in the 117th Congress.
- Failure to target education funding through the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth Act (EHCY). While the $54.3 billion in K-12 education funding includes several allowable uses of funds for students experiencing homelessness, it is not sufficient merely to allow stimulus funds to be used to meet the needs of homeless students. Competing demands and the invisibility of homeless students mean that they are often overlooked, despite their heightened needs due to vulnerability, isolation, mobility, and disconnection from educational supports. For example, in a national survey, only 18% of school district homeless liaisons indicated that federal coronavirus relief education funding provided by the CARES Act was being used to meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness. Without dedicated funding through the EHCY program – the only federal program that removes barriers to identification, enrollment, and attendance caused by homelessness – children and youth experiencing homelessness are extremely unlikely to receive the assistance they need to participate in education of any kind – in-person, virtual, or hybrid – or even to be identified at all. The tragic result: hundreds of thousands of students losing out on the education that is necessary to avoid homelessness as adults. Congress must include dedicated EHCY funding in the next relief package.
SHC will continue to advocate for resources and policies that meet the needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness in future legislation.
For more detailed information on the year-end package, please see summaries below.
Early Care and Education
- $10 billion for child care through the Child Care and Development Block Grant. (See summary of existing CCDF requirements on homelessness here.)
- $250 million for Head Start (See summary of existing Head Start requirements on homelessness here.)
- $54.3 billion for Elementary and Secondary School (K-12) Emergency Relief Fund. Funds may be used for a range of activities, including:
- Activities authorized by the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth program.
- Additional services to address the needs of students experiencing homelessness and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery services will meet the needs of each population.
- Providing mental health services and supports. Planning and implementing summer learning and after-school programs addressing the needs of students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care, and other specified groups of students. Funds may be used for activities such as classroom instruction and online learning during the summer months.
- Not later than six months after receiving funding, State must provide a detailed accounting of the use of funds, including how the State is using funds to measure and address learning loss among students disproportionately affected by coronavirus and school closures, including low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care.
- $22.7 billion for institutions of higher education, with set-asides for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) and other Minority-Serving Institutions.
- Institutions receiving funds may use funds to provide financial aid grants to students (including students exclusively enrolled in distance learning), which may be used for any component of the costs of attendance, or for emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care), and child care. In making grants to students, institutions must prioritize grants to students with exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants.
- $600 direct payment stimulus checks for individuals making up to $75,000 a year; $1,200 direct payment checks for couples making up to $150,000 (in addition to $600 per child).
- The eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is extended from December 31st, 2020 to January 31st, 2021.
- $25 billion in rental assistance:
- 90% of funds must be used for assistance with rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs, and related housing costs.
- Up to 10% may be used for housing stability services “intended to help keep households stably housed,” including “case management and other services related to” the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To be eligible for rental assistance:
- A household must be obligated to pay rent; and
- The household income must not be more than 80 percent of the area median income for the household; and
- One or more individuals in the household must have qualified for unemployment, or experienced loss of income or other significant financial hardship due to or during the coronavirus outbreak; and
- One or more individuals in the household must be able to demonstrate a risk of homelessness or housing instability, which may include past due utility or rent notice or eviction notice; unsafe or unhealthy living conditions; or any other evidence of such risk, as determined by the grantee (grantees include states, local government, Native American tribes/their designated housing entities).
- In reviewing applications for financial assistance or housing stability services to eligible households, the grantee must give priority to a household that satisfies any of the following conditions:
- The income of the household does not exceed 50 percent of the area median income for the household.
- One or more individuals in the household are unemployed as of the date of the application and have not been employed within the 90-day period preceding the date of the application.
As a result of budget caps, many federal programs related to early care, education, and homelessness received either flat funding or only modest increases in the FY2021 budget.
Funding and Policy Targeted to Children, Youth, and Families Experiencing Homelessness
- $106.5 million for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program. This is a 5% increase from fiscal year 2020.
- The final bill also incorporates House report language urging the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to support the development of local educational agency (LEA) plans that describe the amount of funding reserved for homeless students under Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, how such amount was determined, and the amount of the prior year’s reservation that was spent on homeless students. The language also urges ED to support state plans on how the state will monitor the amount and use of funds reserved for homeless students, and provide technical assistance to assist LEAs in effectively using Title I funds to support homeless students.
- $136.7 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs. This is a 3.2% increase from fiscal year 2020.
Other Federal Programs Related to Early Care, Education, Housing, and Homelessness
The chart below (Download PDF) summarizes the final FY2021 funding for select early care, education, housing, and homelessness programs.
The Biden-Harris Administration is expected to propose additional coronavirus relief, and its proposed FY2022 budget in early 2021. SHC will continue to advocate for resources and policies to support children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness, and to lead grassroots advocacy efforts with new advocacy training in 2021. To learn more about our advocacy training, please contact Alleanne Anderson, SHC’s Policy and Outreach Associate.