May 19, 2020

Manchin Advocates For Assistance For Families, Youth, And Children In Crisis As A Result Of COVID-19 Pandemic

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) led Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in advocating for the Senate to provide support for children, youth, and families in crisis or experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bipartisan group of Senators asked for dedicated funding to be included in future COVID-19 relief packages in order to meet the unique and complex needs of homeless youth and families through the programs and systems that are best positioned to help them immediately, and ensure their long-term stability. In West Virginia, over 10,500 students are identified as homeless, but that is believed to be much higher.

The Senators said in part, “Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, public schools reported a record 1.5 million children and youth experiencing homelessness, preK-12, for the most recent year reported (2017-2018). In addition, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that 1.4 million children under age six -- infants, toddlers, and preschoolers -- are experiencing homelessness. As disturbing as these numbers are, they significantly undercount the actual number of children and youth experiencing homelessness.”

In their letter to Senate leaders, the Senators address a series of issues that accompany homeless families, youth, and children experiencing homelessness – from being at a high risk of COVID-19 transmission, infection, and illness – as well as predation and trafficking. Additionally, the Senators proposed a new emergency program, ‘the Family Stabilization Fund’ to bolster the existing infrastructure of direct-service providers working to provide comprehensive services keep youth, families, and children out of homelessness and crisis. The additional funding has been proposed to meet the tremendous increase in need caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Senators explain why their ask will help to stabilize and protect some of our most vulnerable children and youth during the outbreak and recovery, and also help to prevent entrenched chronic adult homelessness in the future. The proposal includes a 40% set-aside for rural areas, which will help ensure West Virginia receives its fair share.

“Now, more than ever, is an opportunity to close a gap in our federal system, which has disadvantaged our families and youth in crisis who need specific services along with housing assistance. The needs of this critical population that have gone under resourced for years, are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have a responsibility to provide assistance to our families in crisis,” the Senators continued.

“West Virginia’s youth are experiencing crises on a level that is historic in proportions. Poverty, lack of jobs, lack of recreation and opportunities for positive development, and the erosion of communities that is inevitable in times of crisis are ripping families, and subsequently the lives of their members apart, one person, one youth at a time. In this environment, communities become fertile ground for substance use and sales, crime, abuse, trafficking, and a spiral of people who once held one another up in times of need now victimizing and taking advantage of one another. In the work of the WV Coalition to End Homelessness (WVCEH), staff and partners have seen time and again, the need for an immediate, kinetic response to the issues that affect the youth of WV. We believe that youth homelessness can be ended in WV and are eager to see this happen soon,” said Zach Brown, CEO of WV Coalition to End Homelessness.

“Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, in our long history of work with youth and children experiencing homelessness, and work on preventing, and supporting victims of sex trafficking, is seeing the daily additional toll this is placing on these vulnerable youth, and strongly encourage the passing of this assistance,” said Steve Tuck, CEO of the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.

The following West Virginia organizations endorse this proposal: Children's Home Society of West Virginia, West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, West Virginia Community Action Partnership, and West Virginia Head Start Association.

The letter can be read in full here.