Senators Introduce Legislation to Help Families, Youth, and Children Faced with Homelessness Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Senators Call for Support to Meet the Unique Needs of Underserved Populations
U.S. Senators Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced S.3923, the Emergency Family Stabilization Act. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this legislation creates a new emergency funding stream overseen by the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide flexible funding for community-based organizations to meet the unique needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. Specifically, the bill aims to provide emergency funding to underserved populations and areas, including in rural and tribal communities, who continue to see long-term repercussions of the COVID-19 outbreak.
This legislation follows a letter penned in May 2020 by Senators Murkowski, Joe Manchin, Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Kyrsten Sinema, urging Senate Leadership to include funding in any future coronavirus relief efforts to help meet the unique and complex needs of youth, families and children experiencing homelessness through the programs and systems that are best positioned to help them immediately, and to ensure their long-term stability.
“Youth and family homelessness in Alaska was an obstacle even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. And with stress related to shelter-in-place orders combined with the current economic crisis, we see even more homeless families,” said Senator Murkowski. “We can help protect these vulnerable populations by providing additional resources and the flexibility to use them for the programs and systems that are already in place.”
“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our families, children, and youth currently experiencing homelessness are awful, and we are only beginning to see the consequences of this crisis on American families and children. In West Virginia, over 10,500 students have been identified as homeless, but we know that number is likely much higher,” Senator Manchin said. “I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to expand funding to address children and youth homelessness and to specifically help those affected by this global healthcare crisis. No child should go to bed without a roof over their head and a warm place to sleep. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this commonsense, compassionate legislation to help our friends and neighbors in need.”
“Empowering community service organizations with resources helps ensure Arizona families experiencing homelessness have safe spaces to shelter and receive care during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak,” said Senator Sinema.
“COVID-19 has already impacted so many of Alaska’s children, youth, and families. Catholic Social Services has been at the front lines continuing to house clients and provide prevention throughout the pandemic, seeing firsthand how great the need is. The Family Stabilization Act will provide funding to the service agencies working hard to keep families out of homelessness and in permanent housing. Many families are at a greater risk because of the effects of COVID-19. This legislation will help prevent children and youth from experiencing the trauma of homelessness, a trauma that could have long term, far reaching effects - a trauma that no child or person should ever have to experience. We thank Senator Lisa Murkowski for taking action to protect and support at risk Alaska families,” said Lisa Aquino the Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services Alaska.
"The Emergency Family Stabilization Act ensures essential resources will be available for Alaska's children and families to get back on their feet in the wake of COVID-19. Alaska is seeing unprecedented need for access to social services to get them through this increasingly difficult time. We thank Senator Murkowski and her staff for recognizing that COVID-19 threatens to widen the margins in which Alaskan children and families were already living in prior to this pandemic. With the help of the EFSA, our community-based organizations can continue meeting the needs of Alaska's youth and families, and long-term ensure they thrive," said Trevor Storr the President and CEO of Alaska's Children's Trust
“This legislation provides essential funding for services to the most vulnerable, whose lives are extremely impacted by the current COVID situation as well as by domestic violence, sexual assault or trafficking. This funding is vital to women, children and youth particularly those from rural communities who are experiencing homelessness to gain access to essential resources,” said Tami Jerue the Executive Director of the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center.
“Our Chapter in Alaska believes that providing emergency funding to to meet the needs of children, youth and families is imperative in these challenging times. Funding could provide safe housing for those at increased risk of coronavirus transmission due to their economic situation. During these challenging times, many family and youth shelters are at capacity, leaving many with no options for safe shelter. This situation is extremely dire for those experiencing family violence or those who do not meet the HUD definition of homelessness,” said Dr. Anna Ogena, the President of the Alaska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Providing emergency funding to to meet the needs of children, youth and families is imperative in these challenging times. Funding could provide safe housing for those at increased risk of coronavirus transmission and other illnesses due to their economic situation. Children living with asthma and allergic disease are at increased risk for disease flair without safe and sanitary places to live. Asthma and allergy triggers like rodent dropppings, cockroaches, mites and mold are a real danger to children who are homeless and living outdoors or in unsanitary situations. Additionally, these children may be without their medications due to family economic issues,” said Dale Knutsen, the Executive Director of the Alaska Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
A variety of stakeholders serving those experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation who support this legislation, affirm the need for this emergency funding stream and offer words of support, which can be found here.
Eligible uses of funds would include:
- Health and safety needs, including PPE, food, hygiene supplies, and mental health services
- Housing-related needs, such as eviction prevention, utility payments, motel stays, and housing placement assistance
- Transportation assistance
- Emergency child care
- Communications and connectivity needs
- Education, training, and employment-related needs
- The particular needs of pregnant women and children birth to age five
- Staffing for outreach and case management
- Services and supports to meet the particular needs of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or trafficking
- Assistance in accessing Economic Stimulus Payments, unemployment compensation, and other benefits provided by federal, state and local governments
- The particular needs of unaccompanied homeless youth and young families
Alaska Children's Trust; Alaska Behavioral Health Association (ABHA); Alaska Native Women's Resource Center; American Association of Pediatrics - Alaska Chapter; Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness; Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American - Alaska Chapter; Bethel Community Services Foundation; Best Beginnings Alaska; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska; Camp Fire Alaska; Catholic Social Services; Covenant House Alaska; Kawerak; RurAL CAP; STAR; Volunteers of America; Women In Safe Homes (WISH)
Alliance for Excellent Education; Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking – ATEST; American Federation of School Administrators; American School Counselor Association; Child Care Services Association; Child Welfare League of America; Covenant House International; Family Promise; First Focus Campaign for Children; Forum for Youth Investment; Foster Club;
Futures Without Violence; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of School Psychologists; National Association of Social Workers; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Coalition for the Homeless; National Congress of American Indians ; National Council of Urban Indian Health; National Center for Housing & Child Welfare; National Crittenton; National Indian Child Welfare Association;
National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center; National Network for Youth; National Safe Place Network; Polaris; SchoolHouse Connection; School Social Work Association of America; SparkAction; Vital Voices; YouthBuild USA; YWCA USA
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.