There are many issues the Alliance is tracking, as are other organizations. Review and report additional issues with The Chronicle of Social Change. Here are just a few of the issues we are tracking.
- Lack of child care options for working parents could lead to spike in reports of neglect for children left at home. There is a call for the government to provide low-cost or free child care to working parents.
Disruptions in Permanency and Placement:
- Longer stays in foster care and detention are possible due to delays in court hearings. The National Juvenile Defender Center is pushing juvenile justice systems to restrict the use of detention centers during this health crisis. Children at residential centers may be at a heightened risk of the virus.
- Birth parent visitation options will be limited due to inability to travel, safety of visitation centers, or illness and may need to become virtual to avoid delays in reunification.
- Foster parents affected by school closures are receiving little guidance on child care, respite care, or employment. This could trigger requests for placement changes.
Older Youth in Foster Care:
- Young people in college depend on housing, both on campus and as commuters, and internet access to keep up with distance learning requirements.
- Title IV-E work and education requirement for older youth in extended care beyond age 18, and the work and education requirements for Chafee, may need to be waived during this time.
- Youth need to be made aware of services for which they are already eligible.
- Additional meals may be needed for children in homes of kinship caregivers.
- Child care or respite care may be helpful when kids are home full time as a result of school closures.
- Transportation is needed to access food, medications, and other essential materials.
- TANF child only grants to support kinship families facing financial strain from the pandemic and related effects may need to be increased.
As the situation continues, school closures are impacting our members’ ability to get reimbursed for school-based services. We are tracking this closely and want to be helpful in any efforts to relax regulations or address any policy barriers.
If you run a Head Start or Early Head Start program, coordinate with local authorities. Reach out to your regional office to inform them of any changes. During a closure, continue to engage families and deliver services to the extent possible. The Office of Head Start is directing programs to continue to pay wages and provide benefits to staff. Flexibility is currently in effect until April 30. Additional information related to flexibilities can be found in this guidance from ACF on general disaster recovery flexibilities. Related topics cover administrative flexibility and class size and ratio questions.
Child and Adult Care Food Program
USDA waived its group setting meal requirement for closed schools and authorized special flexibilities for many states. Possible strategies to get food to children during center closure include assembly bags of food delivered to homes in agency school bus or vehicle. Food could be assembled for pick up by family at center or other location. Programs could check with local schools, churches, and community-based organizations to seek partnership opportunities to increase efficiency of food distribution.
Health and Well Being
Alliance members are delivering care on the frontlines of the epidemic. Whether through telehealth counselling or face-to-face care, they are stepping up to the plate and providing vital services communities need now more than ever. The challenges are daunting. Many members have been forced to pay exorbitant fees for cleaning and health care supplies, while also looking for ways to remain soluble and pay staff. Others are finding themselves with their hands tied, with regulations and rules that are too slow to change in response to the crisis. Some went ahead with urgently needed telehealth services a week ago, with no guarantee that funders would catch up with reality and reimburse them for those services.
- The federal government has stepped up efforts to address some of these pressing issues. HHS released guidance allowing covered healthcare providers subject to HIPAA to use remote communications technologies to care for patients.
- CMS relaxed regulations around physicians and hospitals, allowing more physicians and healthcare professionals to be readily available to combat the crisis wherever it strikes.
- Though H.R. 6201 increased Medicaid funding and COVID-19 test coverage, these new funds will likely be insufficient to meet demand given the expected rise in unemployment. This issue must be addressed immediately.
Ensuring economic stability and mobility will be one of the top priorities during the crisis. In particular, maintaining and expanding access to food, housing and transportation will be integral to combatting the worst effects of the pandemic. Alliance members are hard at work distributing nutritious food packs with minimal face-to-face contact, housing the homeless and supporting people who are at risk of foreclosure or eviction, and driving seniors to doctor appointments and the grocery store. H.R. 6201 has addressed many of these issues; however, there is much more left to be done at the federal level.
- Regarding housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s suspension of foreclosures and evictions must be lengthened past the month of April and include millions of families without FHA-backed loans. Additionally, the administration must initiate the Emergency Feeding and Shelter program to increase food and housing support for areas that experience high poverty, homelessness and unemployment rates.
- Some advocates are promoting more comprehensive unemployment insurance benefits.
- Some advocates are promoting more comprehensive food security policies. Though H.R. 6201 funded the Emergency Feeding Assistance Program and halted work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, it will be critical to explore ways to expand the SNAP benefit amount for individuals who have been laid off and need continuing access to food.
- Funds are needed to give transportation options to seniors, who should continue to go to regular doctor visits rather than risk the chance of ending up in the emergency room.
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