As we close the third quarter of 2023, lawmakers in a number of states have advanced important reforms to address child and youth homelessness. While some bills crossed the finish line, other bills are continuing to work their way through the legislative process. Below we highlight a few new state policy wins and update the state of play on some of the state policies described in our more comprehensive Q2 state policy update.
For more information on any of the legislation referenced here, or to share policy reform efforts in your state, please contact Rodd Monts, Director of State Policy.
Maine: Preventing Student Homelessness and Vital Documents
To address the various needs of students experiencing homelessness, the Maine legislature passed a student homelessness prevention pilot program, set to launch October 25. Championed by the Quality Housing Coalition, the pilot will provide up to $750 in direct assistance to families and youth who are at risk of homelessness to meet critical needs that will allow them to remain in their home. Additionally, SchoolHouse Connection is also working with Maine advocates on legislation for next session that would waive fees for driver’s licenses and birth certificates, with the aim of allowing students experiencing homelessness to access transportation they need to get to school and work.
California: Improving High School Graduation and College Completion
A raft of legislation in California created a lot of activity in the legislature this year. SHC submitted support for several of those bills, including a couple that passed this quarter.
The first is AB 373, which was driven by the Sycamores organization, will require California school districts that operate intersession programs to provide priority access to homeless and foster children and youth. The second is AB 789, will create a common set of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements on access to state and federal aid. John Burton Advocates for Youth lead advocacy on the bill, and it will also remove additional requirements that are more restrictive than those federally mandated, and ensure students have clear pathways to financial aid.
New York: Higher Education Liaisons
The State University of New York (SUNY) system announced a partnership with SHC to designate homeless higher education liaisons at all 64 SUNY campuses and create a Homeless Higher Education Liaison Learning Network, SchoolHouse Connection is partnering with Young Invincibles and the New York Basic Needs Coalition to advocate for The City University of New York (CUNY) system to designate liaisons as well. SHC is also working with lawmakers to create a legislative path forward for S4247, S4248 and A4029, which would designate higher education homeless liaisons and establish a pilot program to support students experiencing homelessness in higher education.
Michigan: Medical Consent for Minors and Access to Shelter
In Michigan, SHC has been working to support groups like the Michigan Network for Youth and Families, Michigan’s Children and others on a package of bills that will help youth experiencing homelessness. HB 4085 would allow child-caring institutions to provide services to youth experiencing homelessness for up to 72 hours with or without parental consent. This bill would align Michigan’s notification and consent requirements with the federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. HB 4086 will provide additional protection of children through the licensing and regulation of childcare organizations, establish standards of care for childcare providers, and allow certain licensed organizations to serve youth experiencing homelessness. Both bills have made it out of committee and are now on the House floor.
HB 4087 would allow youth experiencing homelessness to consent to access their own basic physical and mental health care. This legislation would help keep youth safe and well, and able to attend school and work, so they can ultimately end their homelessness. The bill remains in the House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors. Michigan residents are encouraged to contact the Chair Rep. Stephanie Young to ask that this bill be placed on the agenda at a future meeting.
Massachusetts: Child Care and Early Intervention
SHC was pleased to support the advocacy of Horizons for Homeless Children by submitting support for H.147 in Massachusetts. This legislation would codify automatic child care assistance to families experiencing homelessness in the shelter system; expand access to child care assistance for doubled-up families experiencing homelessness, and expand automatic eligibility to Early Intervention services for children aged 0-3 who meet the McKinney-Vento definition of homelessness. This legislation would provide our youngest learners with the quality care they need as a foundation for a strong academic career, while also giving parents the flexibility to pursue pathways out of homelessness. The bill is in the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.
Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Michigan: Improving FAFSA Completion Rates
These three states are currently considering bills aimed at increasing students’ access to financial support for postsecondary education. Each of the bills seeks to make completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) a high school graduation requirement. SHC is supporting SB 463, currently in the Michigan Senate, by working with the sponsor on an amendment to ensure unaccompanied homeless youth and former foster youth are counseled to seek independent status to maximize the aid that they receive. We will be pursuing similar amendments to H. 1274 in Massachusetts and SB 750 in Pennsylvania, while the two bills are in committee.