Washington, D.C.—As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate the impacts of homelessness, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the ranking member of the Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Emergency Family Stabilization Act (EFSA). The bill would create 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, EFSA 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 would be administered by the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“Youth and families experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission and infection. During this uncertain time, we must help ensure that they receive the support they need to stay safe and healthy,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan bill would help state agencies and local organizations as they continue to work to meet the needs of homeless families and children throughout our country.”
The Emergency Family Stabilization Act is endorsed by several Maine and national organizations, including New Beginnings Inc., Volunteers of America Northern New England, Preble Street, SchoolHouse Connection, the National Network for Youth, Polaris, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, and the National Community Action Foundation.
“I would like to thank Sen. Collins for her diligent work to fine tune the Emergency Family Stabilization Act to best meet the needs of Maine youth and families during this time of crisis,” said Chris Bicknell, Executive Director of New Beginnings Inc. in Lewiston. “This is an important piece of legislation that will provide funding for rural communities to provide critical supports to youth and families who are experiencing homelessness or who are doubled up in other housing. In a rural state like Maine this flexibility will allow providers to make a real and significant impact on the lives of youth, children and families who have been most severely impacted by the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
"COVID has financially wiped-out families. Too many have depleted their savings. The Emergency Family Stabilization Act is just what we need, flexible funding to help families with children cover emergency housing costs, utilities, food, and clothing to help keep them in their homes or offer a life line to hotel accommodations when they face homelessness. These federal funds will flow to existing community-based nonprofit organizations with a track record of serving youth and families in Maine. We appreciate Senator Collins and her steadfast advocacy for homeless youth and children," said Richard Hooks Wayman, President and CEO of Volunteers of America Northern New England.
“From all of us at Preble Street, we thank Senator Collins for her continued support of local organizations that are dedicated to helping our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Mark Swann, Executive Director of Preble Street in Portland. “The Emergency Family Stabilization Act would help us to expand our services to better meet the unique needs of youth and families facing hunger and homelessness.”
The legislation was also introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) 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).
The Emergency Family Stabilization Act would:
· 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.