Murkowski, Manchin, Sinema Reintroduce Legislation to Help Children, Youth, Families Faced with Homelessness
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate impacts of homelessness, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) reintroduced S. 220, the Emergency Family Stabilization Act. Their bill creates a new grant program to provide flexible funding for community-based organizations working to meet the unique and challenging needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. Specifically, the bill aims to provide emergency funding to underserved populations and areas, including rural and tribal communities, who continue to see long-term repercussions of the COVID-19 outbreak. The new grant program will be administered by the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Original cosponsors of the legislation include U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ). Companion legislation will soon be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY-3) and Don Bacon (R-NE-2).
“Prior to COVID-19, addressing youth and family homelessness in Alaska was a significant challenge. Now, with the added difficulties of the pandemic, more and more families are facing homelessness and shelters across the state are struggling with significant financial strain, said Senator Murkowski. “At a time with so much uncertainty, children and families shouldn’t have the added concerns of not knowing if they will have a warm, safe place to sleep. This legislation is an opportunity to protect underserved, vulnerable populations that otherwise have nowhere else to turn.”
“Every child deserves a roof over their head and a safe place to sleep but unfortunately, this is not the case today. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this problem worse due to high unemployment, unstable living conditions, and job insecurity. Recent research has also found the lack of resources in rural areas of America – like West Virginia – create additional burdens for children and youth experiencing homelessness. The Emergency Family Stabilization Act would help address this issue by dedicating emergency funding to help our children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to include this bipartisan, commonsense legislation in the next COVID-19 relief package,” said Senator Manchin.
“Too many Arizona families are at risk of—or currently experiencing—homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic. Empowering community service organizations with new resources will help keep roofs over Arizonans’ heads during the current public health crisis,” said Senator Sinema.
“Over the last two years, Covenant House Alaska has experienced a 230% increase in services delivered, and a 118% increase in youth who accessed them. We only expect these numbers to increase as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the underlying circumstances leading to homelessness, created a huge economic downturn for Alaska, and increased the strain on our community’s safety net, which disproportionately affects our most vulnerable populations. The Family Stabilization Act will provide the funding that organizations like ours need, in order to keep our doors open 24/7 to youth experiencing homelessness,” said Alison Kear, Chief Executive Officer, Covenant House Alaska,
"The Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center supports the efforts of Senator Murkowski in her Emergency Family Stabilization Act (EFSA) legislation that will provide critical funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to local organizations providing assistance to Alaska Native/American Indian and Native Hawaiian children, families, and survivors of dating violence, domestic violence, and human trafficking who are impacted by homelessness and housing insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Tami Jerue, Executive Director, Alaska Native Women's Resource Center.
“VOA Alaska provides housing for youth who are experiencing homelessness, as well as critical mental health and substance misuse treatment services to Alaskan youth in need. We see firsthand the impacts of COVID on these young lives. We appreciate Senator Murkowski’s leadership in putting forward the Emergency Family Stabilization Act to address youth homelessness and support families. Youth are our future, and this provides much-needed resources that will help many critical community-based organizations in addressing the impacts of COVID for the most vulnerable,” said Sherrie Wilson Hinshaw, President & CEO of VOA Alaska.
"WISH has seen an increase in the number and the severity of domestic violence and interpersonal violence incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local shelters have reduced their capacity in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities. Having access to safe and stable housing is critical for families and youth to heal from violence while they work to put their lives back together. The Family Stabilization Act will provide essential funding to organizations providing safe housing and supports to those that have experienced violence. WISH is grateful for Senator Murkowski’s efforts to provide the critical resources necessary to address the needs of at risk families," said Agnes Moran, Executive Director, Women in Safe Homes (WISH).
A variety of additional stakeholders serving individuals experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation support this legislation. Their words of support can be found here.
The Emergency Family Stabilization Act will:
- Create a new grant program through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for local agencies that currently receive ACF grants, or have experience in serving children, families, and unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness.
- Authorize $800 million in direct flexible funding to meet the unique needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness in the wake of the coronavirus.
- Give special consideration to programs serving families and youth who face barriers in accessing homeless services, as well as the needs of pregnant women, pregnant and parenting youth, children under age six, children with disabilities, families experiencing domestic violence, survivors of sexual assault or human trafficking, and historically marginalized and underserved communities of color.
- Permit funds to be used for a wide range of emergency housing, health, education, and safety-related activities, including but not limited to: purchasing PPE, food, hygiene supplies, mental health services, transportation services, emergency child care, communications and connectivity needs, education, training and employment-related needs, eviction prevention, motel stays, assistance in seeking housing placements, assistance in accessing unemployment and other federal benefits.
- Set aside specific funding for tribes, tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations, and ensures funds are distributed to urban, rural, and suburban areas.
For a fact sheet of the bill, click here.
For a section by section of the bill, click here.
For full text of the bill, click here.
Alaskan Endorsing Organizations: Alaska Children’s Alliance , Alaska Afterschool Network, Alaska Children’s Trust, Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN), Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, All Alaska Pediatric Partnership, American Academy of Pediatrics - Alaska Chapter, Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, Anchorage Medical Society, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America - Alaska Chapter, Beans Café, Best Beginnings Alaska, Bethel Community Services Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, Camp Fire Alaska, Catholic Social Services of Alaska, Chugachmiut, Covenant House Alaska, Fairbanks Youth Advocates, Kawerak, MyHouse Mat-Su Youth Center, Nome Eskimo Community, Recover Alaska, Rural Alaska Community Action Program - RurAL CAP, STAR, United Way of Anchorage, Urban Pain Institute, Volunteers of America – Alaska, Women in Safe Homes, Youth Advocates of Sitka
National Endorsing Organizations: A New Path, A Way Home America, American Association of School Superintendents – AASA, Alliance for Excellent Education, Alliance for Period Supplies, Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking – ATEST, American Art Therapy Association, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Medical Student Association, American School Counselor Association, Bethany Christian Services, Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, Child Care Services Association, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Health Fund, Children’s Home Society of America, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, Covenant House International, Family Focused Treatment Association, Family Promise, First Focus Campaign for Children, Foster Club, Low Income Investment Fund, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association for Children's Behavioral Health, National Association of Counsel for Children, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Center for Housing & Child Welfare, National Children’s Alliance, National Community Action Fund, National Crittenton, National Diaper Bank Network, National Education Association, National Head Start Association, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, National League of Cities, National Network for Youth, National Runaway Safeline, National Safe Place Network, Polaris, Psychotherapy Action Network, Rights4Girls, Safe Horizon, SchoolHouse Connection, StandUp for Kids, Strategies for Youth, The Forum on Youth Investment, The McCain Institute for International Leadership, The Next 100, Third Way, Vital Voices, Youth Homes of Mid-America, YouthBuild USA, Zero To Three