On June 29th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the California State Budget for 2020-21, which includes four proposals championed by John Burton Advocates for Youth.
Strengthening the Safety Net for Foster Youth in High Cost Counties
The first proposal is a $4 million annual investment to prevent California’s foster care system from contributing to the growing homelessness crisis by establishing a supplementary payment to the state’s transitional housing placement for youth in foster care aged 18 to 21 (THP-NMD). In California, the cost of housing has significantly outpaced the foster care rate, resulting in increased homelessness, the exclusion of young parents, fewer supportive services and the displacement of youth from their community.
With the creation of the Housing Supplement in the state budget, the rate for THP-NMD will be augmented based on Fair Market Rent, a system developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The THP-NMD Housing Supplement will vary based on the cost of housing in each county, ensuring safe, affordable housing and supportive services for over 2,000 youth on a given day.
$32 Million to Protect Foster Youth During COVID-19
The second proposal included in the State Budget is a $32 million investment to protect youth in foster care who turn age 21 by allowing them to remain in foster care until June 30, 2021. This proposal was developed in response to the alarming levels of homelessness and instability experienced by older youth in foster care as a result of COVID-19.
With the passage of the state budget, young adults in foster care who turn 21 during the fiscal year will not be required to exit and instead have the option to continue to receive support until June 30, 2021. The funding will also allow youth to remain in foster care if they have lost their employment or have experienced a disruption in their education program resulting from COVID-19, and cannot otherwise meet any of the participation requirements of extended foster care.
According to Emmerald Evans, a youth advocate at John Burton Advocates for Youth and a former foster youth, allowing young people to remain in foster care will ensure their hard-won gains are not lost due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Evans said, “After working so hard to beat the odds, to lose it all would be devastating.”
$24 Million to Reduce Youth Homelessness
The third proposal backed by John Burton Advocates for Youth and included in the State Budget is a $24 million one-time investment in preventing and addressing youth homelessness. In 2019, unaccompanied youth comprised eight percent of the homeless population in California. Despite this prevalence, just 3% of the federally funded homelessness beds in California were for unaccompanied homeless youth, leaving them unsheltered, vulnerable and at risk for chronic homelessness.
The state budget includes a $300 million augmentation to the Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Program, established in 2019, and requires a minimum of eight percent of the funding ($24 million) to be used to serve homeless youth. According to Cody Van Felden, a youth advocate for John Burton Advocates for Youth, “This funding will prevent other youth from experiencing the trauma and abuse that I experienced while homeless.”
Local Flexibility to Protect Former Foster Youth
The final budget item included in the state budget is local flexibility to allow former foster youth to continue to participate in Transitional Housing Program Plus (THP-Plus). THP-Plus was created by the California State Legislature to prevent homelessness among youth who “age out” of foster care. The program serves over 1,700 former foster youth annually in addition to 380 children residing with a parent participating in the program.
The state budget authorizes counties to allow youth to continue to participate in THP-Plus, regardless of their age or program duration until June 30, 2021. Currently, the maximum age to participate is 24 and the maximum program duration is 24 months. This new flexibility will provide counties with a tool to prevent homelessness among former foster youth during COVID-19, many of whom have a disability or are custodial parents.