Potential Changes to Paycheck Protection Program

A bipartisan bill, H.R. 7010, passed in the House of Representatives last Thursday and would offer new flexibility in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). To receive loan forgiveness currently under the PPP, borrowers have to use the loan money by June 30; the proposed bill would extend the deadline to Dec. 31 or 24 weeks after the loan is issued, whichever comes first. The original bill also required staffing or salary levels to return to pre-pandemic levels by June 30; this deadline would also be extended to Dec. 31. Moreover, the bill would give borrowers 5 years instead of 2 years to pay back the portion of their loan that is not forgiven. Finally, the bill would allow more of the loan to go toward overhead, such as rent and utilities. In the original bill, at least 75% of the loan had to go toward payroll; the proposal would require only 60% for payroll costs. The Senate has signaled that it will consider the bill this week, though Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) has publicly stated concerns with the bill.

Source: Bloomberg Government

Dislocated Worker Program Funding

The Department of Labor recently allocated more than $26 million dollars in dislocated worker grants (DWG), bringing the disbursed total to almost $200 million. This wave of funding went to Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey and Tennessee. The awards are funded under the CARES Act, which set aside $345 million for DWGs to respond to the effects of the coronavirus. The DWG program, which began in 2014 in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, supports the expansion of services for worker training and employment programs during unexpected economic disruptions. The grants, which assist state and local employment agencies, help workers find jobs that match their skillset or enhance their education and job training. With over 40 million Americans applying for unemployment insurance in recent months, programs like the DWG are needed more than ever.

The Pandemic and School Meals

In mid-March, Congress funded the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program as part of the Families First Act, which provides EBT cards to families whose children are no longer receiving school meals due to school shutdowns during COVID-19. To date, the families of 4.4 million children have received payments, even though 30 million are potentially eligible. State agencies have faced challenges collecting lunch lists from school districts, updating computer systems and creating EBT cards in a timely manner. Only 12 states have started sending money to families, and only 2 states have sent money to all eligible families. Looking to the future, the benefit amount is based on the number of missed school days and is not slated to continue into the summer, when child hunger traditionally rises. The HEROES Act, passed a few weeks ago in the House of Representatives, included more funds for summer meals; however, the Senate has not yet taken up this legislation.

Source: New York Times

Judge Blocks Rule Limiting SNAP Benefits

A federal judge blocked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing a rule that would have limited access to Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for able-bodied adults without dependents. The rule would have limited states’ ability to use discretion in applying work requirements based on the state or locality’s unemployment rate. By some estimates, 700,000 adults would have been kicked off food stamps as a result of the rule. Implementation of the rule was set to begin on April 1; however, the judge ruled that the USDA could not move forward in the implementation process because of the new effects of the COVID-19 crisis on food security. The USDA has appealed the court order.

Multiple Bills Introduced for Transition Age Youth

The co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth recently introduced new legislation. Led by Rep Karen Bass (D-CA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Paul Mitchell (R-MI), and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), this bill would protect transition age foster youth during COVID-19 by allowing youth already in foster care and/or participating in the Chafee program to continue to be served if they age out during the pandemic response. Congress has defined eligibility for foster care up to age 21. Eligibility for the Chafee program benefits go up to age 23. The temporary waiver proposed in this legislation would start January 1, 2020 and end when the COVID-19 emergency declaration ends.

Another bill was introduced earlier this month by Reps Jim Langevin (D-RI), Don Bacon (R-NE), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) that would provide increased funds for the Chafee Foster Care Program to allow jurisdictions to better meet the needs of transition age youth in and from foster care. The bill provides an additional $500 million, of which $160 million is dedicated to Education and Training Vouchers. These funds would not require a state match and would be available through 2021. They can help meet immediate needs related to housing, food, and other support services that are critical for older youth who are impacted by COVID-19.

On May 22, Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) and Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) introduced a new bill in honor of “Djay” a former foster youth that recently passed away due to complications from COVID-19. It would ensure that eligible former foster youth have access to Medicaid until age 26.

Source: Children’s Defense Fund

FosterClub Poll of Independent Living Centers

FosterClub recently conducted a poll of Independent Living Programs (ILP) to better understand how the COVID-19 crisis was impacting youth and demand for services. They found that approximately 4 out of 5 ILPs reported they had experienced significant increases in calls from young people over the past two months. Three quarters of ILPs expect they will need additional resources as demand for assistance increases. Nearly every ILP reported youth are asking for help with housing and financial support, and more than 80% noted requests for technology assistance. Three quarters of state IPLs report youth were requesting mental health services.

Source: Children’s Defense Fund

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