New Letter from Children’s Bureau on Title IV-E Flexibility
The Children's Bureau released a new letter on April 27 to child welfare leaders, detailing flexibilities that already exist in the Title IV-E program. The letter encourages Title IV-E agencies to use the flexibilities to improve services for youth during the COVID pandemic. Specifically, the letter speaks to flexibilities regarding:
- Enhancing foster care maintenance payments
- Modifying licensing standards for foster family homes
- Addressing temporary absences from foster care placements
- Allowing youth to re-enter extended foster care
- Providing hazard pay for caseworkers
- Extending Chafee services to age 23
Source: Children’s Defense Fund
New Guidance on Fingerprinting and Caseworker Visits During COVID-19
On April 15, the Children’s Bureau released a letter for child welfare leaders on two issues the Alliance has been weighing in on with the agency. The letter opens up new flexibility around certain requirements related to fingerprint-based criminal record checks and caseworker visits at a child’s home. In lieu of typical fingerprinting requirements, IV-E agencies wishing to exercise flexibility must conduct all available name-based criminal background checks for prospective foster parents, adoptive parents, legal guardians, and adults working in child care institutions; and complete fingerprint-based checks of NCID “as soon as it is safe to do so, in situations where only name-based checks were completed.” Additionally, it allows flexibility under Title IV-E that agencies may conduct caseworker visits via video conferencing to meet the requirements for caseworker visits.
New Letter on Using Federal Funding for Cell Phones and PPE
On April 17, the Administration for Children and Families released a new letter to child welfare leaders addressing the availability of federal funding to assist with the purchase of cell phones and plans to facilitate contact with children and families. It also discusses the purchase of personal protective equipment as an allowable cost. According to the letter, the purchase and operation of cell phones for children and youth in foster care, their parents, or foster parents, is an allowable cost under IV-B and/or Chafee, as long as the costs are necessary to “fulfill one or more program purpose”. The letter also shares that PPE use by child welfare caseworkers to minimize exposure to COVID-19 is an allowable case management administrative cost under IV-E. In addition, they allow IV-B funds to be used for PPE for caseworker visits and providers (kinship, foster parents, staff of childcare institutions, etc.) if it fits within the purpose of the outlined statute. The PPE should be considered “necessary and reasonable”.
Information Memorandum on Foster Care as a Support to Families
The Children’s Bureau recently released an information memorandum to provide information on best practices, recommendations, and resources for ways to use foster care as a support for families that can mitigate the trauma of removal for the child and parents, and expedite safe and successful reunification. It emphasizes the importance of state and tribal child welfare communities building and supporting relationships between resource families and parents.
Source: Children’s Defense Fund
Congress Passes the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act
On April 21, the President signed H.R. 266 into law, which provides an additional $321 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and an extra $100 billion for hospitals and COVID-19 testing. The PPP, which provides forgivable loans to businesses and nonprofits with less than 500 employees, ran out of money in mid-April. H.R. 266 requires that at least $60 billion of the new funds be disbursed through types of lenders that traditionally serve minority and rural communities. In addition to the PPP enhancement, the bill injects $60 billion into the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which offers low-interest loans along with $10,000 cash advances that do not need to be repaid.
H.R. 266 also puts much-needed resources into the healthcare system. An extra $75 billion was allocated to replenish the Provider Relief fund from the CARES Act, which helps offset lost revenues and increased costs related to the COVID-19 crisis. These dollars will help hospitals and healthcare providers, especially in high impact areas, like New York City, and rural areas, where operating margins are already slim. The funds will also supplement prior efforts to boost care for Medicare beneficiaries. Also, $1 billion is set aside for covering the costs of testing for the uninsured. Finally, H.R. 266 commits $25 billion to develop, manufacture, and administer COVID-19 tests.
To be clear, this bill is an interim measure to address specific issues from the CARES Act. There will be a separate fourth stimulus bill, which is expected to be negotiated in early May.
PPP Survey Results from the Alliance and Nonprofit Times
The Alliance and the Nonprofit Times released results of a recent survey about nonprofits’ experience with the Paycheck Protection Program. Of the nearly 200 respondents, 173 applied for PPP loans, with a 59% acceptance rate. These nonprofits received their loans from a diverse array of lenders: community banks (34%), regional banks (31%) and national banks (29%). Of the organizations whose applications were denied or delayed, 24% have unfortunately begun to lay off staff and 93% stated that they will re-apply for the program now that funds have been replenished. These respondents said their banks had already run out funds, couldn’t process the application before funds ran dry, or were not helpful or responsive. Respondents also cited numerous other hurdles they had to jump through, such as banks requiring complex paperwork, calculations, and projections for eligibility, as well as favoring for-profits, larger organizations, and organizations with pre-existing relationships with banks. The responses, however, were a mixed bag, with some nonprofits citing easy processes and relatively quick access to funds.
Administration of Children and Families Releases Guidance on Head Start
The Office of Head Start within the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) released new guidance about the repurposing of Head Start programs as childcare centers for healthcare and other essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis. Under the guidance, the priority of Head Start grantees remains continuing to provide services to enrolled children and families, including nutritious meals, remote learning, and family engagement. Above and beyond these basic responsibilities, grantees can deliver or contract out childcare services for front line workers. Under the guidance, staff should receive the same compensation for performing both Head Start and childcare responsibilities. All temporary arrangements operate with full knowledge that once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, programs will immediately return to Head Start operations full-time. In related news, ACF released Child Care Development Block Grant funding allocations for states and tribes following an increase in funding for the program in the CARES Act.
Department of Health and Human Services Allocates $955 Million in Grants for the Elderly and People with Disabilities
After receiving an additional 40% in funding through the CARES Act, the Administration for Community Living disbursed almost all the money in grants to states and tribes by April 21. These grants will support personal care assistance, home-delivered meals, transportation services, counseling, respite care, and ombudsman programs. Many of these services are more important than ever because many facilities offering these resources closed, highlighting the need for targeted, in-home care. These funds will be available through the states to nonprofits and other community-based groups to quickly standup much-needed services.