News & Perspectives

Child Welfare Funding Updates in Response to COVID-19

3. February 2021 PCG Human Services

Updated: January, 2021

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

In December 2020, Congress passed and the President signed into law the COVID-19 Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act as part of an appropriations package that funds the federal government through federal fiscal year 2021 (FFY21). The law defines the term, ‘‘COVID–19 public health emergency period,’’ as the period beginning on April 1, 2020 and ending on September 30, 2021.

Major Highlights:

  • Preventing Aging Out of Foster Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic
    • Increase in support of Chafee Programs—appropriation of an additional $400,000,000 for FFY21 with a requirement of zero dollars, including an increase to the Education and Training Voucher (ETV).
    • Chaffe eligibility age increase to 27 in FFY20 & FFY21.
    • States cannot require a child to leave foster care solely by reason of the child’s age, and children who left foster care during the COVID-19 pandemic can re-enter voluntarily.
    • Title IV-E eligibility rules for youth over 18 continues to be flexible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Family First Prevention Services Act – COVID-19 Pandemic Flexibility
    • Title IV-E matching requirements for prevention services costs, including service costs, administrative costs, and training costs, are reduced to zero percent.
  • Emergency Funding for the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program
    • Increase in support for the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program—appropriation of an additional $85,000,000. The state match for the additional funds is reduced to zero percent.
  • Court Improvement Program
    • Additional appropriations for court improvement grants are targeted to court needs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic—each of the highest courts in the state can receive $85,000 plus an additional sum calculated proportionally from the remaining $10 million after tribal court improvement activities and other highest state court grants are funded.
  • Kinship Navigator Programs – Pandemic Flexibility
    • Kinship navigator programs do not have to operate with evidence standards during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Other allowable uses of this program funding include funds to ensure that kinship caregivers have the information and resources they need.
  • Adjustment of Funding Certainty Baselines for Family First Transition Act Funding Certainty Grants
    • States eligible for Title IV-E waiver certainty funding will be held harmless for the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) increase.
    • The FMAP increase of 6.2% will continue through the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Allowing Home Visiting Programs to Continue Serving Families Safely
    • During the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual home visit will be considered a home visit.


Public Consulting Group (PCG) outlines the various components of Division X of the law, which specifically addresses supports for foster youth and families:

Summary of Division X: Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) Increase

Title IV-E: Increases the FMAP rate defined in Section 1905(b) of the Social Security Act by 6.2%.

Title XIX: Increased FMAP is available for allowable Medicaid medical assistance expenditures for which federal matching is paid ordinarily at the state-specific FMAP rate defined in Section 1905(b) of the Act. Note: States do not need to submit a State Plan Amendment or a waiver for the increase, unless there are tests or treatments not currently in their state plan that can be/will be used to treat COVID-19.

Opportunities to reimburse provider payments at a higher FMAP rate for eligible portions:

  • Increase payments to congregate care providers, e.g., providing lump-sum provider-relief payments to help support costs such as hazard pay for direct care staff, additional sanitation and protective equipment supply expenses, and additional sick-leave coverage for direct care staff; or re-evaluating overall provider payment rates to cover additional costs.

Information on CARES Act Supplemental Title IV-B, Subpart 1 Funding (PI-20-11)

This Program Instruction (PI) provides guidance to agencies administering Title IV-B, Subpart 1 of the CARES Act (the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services Program) on the supplemental fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding provided under the CARES Act. The PI provides information on the allowable use of the funding and actions states, territories and tribes must take to report on planned and actual use of the funds.

Obligation/Liquidation Period: The supplemental Title IV-B, Subpart 1 funding provided under the CARES Act (awarded April 23, 2020) must be obligated by September 30, 2021 and liquidated by December 30, 2021.

Approved Activities: These funds can be used to restore amounts, either directly or through reimbursement, for obligations incurred to prevent, prepare for, and respond to, COVID-19 beginning January 20, 2020 and prior to the effective date of the federal award. Funds must, in a manner consistent with the purposes of Title IV-B, Subpart 1, be found in Section 421 of the CARES Act. Funding should be used for the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in families involved in the child welfare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, it is critical that child welfare personnel and service providers have the tools and equipment to be able to safely visit children in their family environments and in their foster homes whenever possible, as well as the technological supports to remain in contact remotely when that is not possible. Agencies are free to use funds for any activities that are consistent with Title IV-B, Subpart 1 purposes and that support efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matching Requirements and Limitations: Funds for this program are awarded with a 100 percent Federal Financial Participation (FFP) rate for program costs; therefore, no match (non-federal share) is required to receive these supplemental Title IV-B, Subpart 1 CARES Act funds.

Use of Funds to Purchase Supplies and Equipment: Agencies that choose to use funds for purchase of supplies or equipment, such as cell phones or laptops, must meet specific conditions as outlined in 45 CFR Part 75.

Used Equipment: When equipment funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reached the end of its useful life, the Title IV-B agency may use the items in other activities funded by the original program or other HHS programs. Title IV-B agencies may dispose of this equipment by giving it to other children or youth in foster care, their parents, or foster parents being served under Title IV-B, or other federal child welfare programs, as deemed appropriate and beneficial.

Administrative Cost Limitation: Grantees may spend no more than 10 percent of the combined total federal funds received under this award (CARES Act) and the grantee’s regular FY 2020 allotment under the Title IV-B, Subpart 1 program on administrative costs (section 424(e) of the CARES Act).

Other Financial Limitations: States (including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) may not spend more federal funds received under this award (CARES Act) and the grantee’s regular FY 2020 allotment under Title IV-B, Subpart 1 combined for child care, foster care maintenance, and adoption assistance payments than the state expended for those purposes in FY 2005. This financial limitation is not applicable to tribes or to insular areas that consolidate Title IV-B funding.

Progress Reporting: Grantees are required to provide an update on the use of funding and accomplishments as part of their regular Annual Progress and Services Reports (APSR) due June 30, 2021 and June 30, 2022. The Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) Children’s Bureau (the Children’s Bureau) will provide additional information on how to report information in the APSR in future program instructions.

Financial Management and Reporting: The supplemental Title IV-B, Subpart 1 CARES Act funding must be tracked and accounted for separately for compliance with specific requirements and allowances of the CARES Act. Federal funds awarded under this grant must be expended for the purposes for which they were awarded and within the time period allotted. Title IV-B agencies are required to submit an electronic SF-425 for the CARES Act funding through the Payment Management System (PMS). Title IV-B agencies must submit the SF-425 for expenditures under the CARES Act funding annually. Each report is due 90 days after the end of each federal fiscal year (i.e., by December 30, 2020 and December 30, 2021). A negative grant award will recoup any unobligated and/or unliquidated funds reported on the final SF-425 for the Title IV-B CARES Act grant, which will be due on December 30, 2021.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Funding

Under the agency’s Public Assistance Program and the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, reimbursement of eligible emergency protective measures taken to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic is allowed at the direction of public health officials. FEMA assistance will be provided at the 75 percent federal cost share. FEMA will not duplicate assistance provided by HHS, including assistance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or other federal agencies.


Opportunities to consider using funding:

  • Child care, supplies (personal protective equipment, PPE, for social workers), meals (per diem emergency workers1), emergency shelters, etc.

Title IV-E Flexibilities Allowable Under the Stafford Act

The Children’s Bureau identifies the following selected requirements as administrative conditions under the Stafford Act in which a Title IV-E agency may request flexibility. Flexibility under the Stafford Act applies only to jurisdictions that have major disaster declarations and only during the time the Title IV-E agency is unable to meet a requirement as a result of the major disaster.

Title IV-E Eligibility for Youth Age 18 and Older — Simplified Process: Title IV-E agencies may request a simplified process for extending Title IV-E assistance instead of submitting a Title IV-E plan amendment.

Title IV-E Assistance for Youth Age 18 and Older – Education and Employment Conditions: Requirements for extended eligibility for Title IV-E assistance with respect to foster care, adoption, and legal guardianship services for youth up to age 21 related to education and employment may be modified for youth who are unable to fulfill this requirement as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accreditation and Reaccreditation of Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs): If conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic prevent a facility from completing its accreditation or reaccreditation as a QRTP, the Title IV-E agency may request flexibility to allow claiming reimbursement of Title IV-E expenses on behalf of an otherwise-eligible child who is placed in the QRTP.

Provisional Licensure for Foster Family Homes: Title IV-E agencies may request flexibility to allow claiming of Title IV-E reimbursement on behalf of an otherwise-eligible child who is placed in a foster family home that is provisionally or conditionally approved or licensed if the declared major disaster precludes full completion of the licensing process.

Virtual Adaptations to Approved Prevention Programs: The Children’s Bureau will allow Title IV-E agencies to adapt programs and services that have been approved as part of the Title IV-E agency’s Title IV-E Prevention Services Program Plan to a virtual environment to allow for children and families to receive necessary services without interruption and within public health guidelines. The Children’s Bureau will only allow Title IV-E agencies to adapt such programs and services to a virtual environment in situations where, absent of modifications, such programs and services would not be available to families. In these cases, a virtual adaptation must be implemented in accordance with the version of program’s or service’s book, manual, or other available documentation that has been approved as part of the Title IV-E agency’s Title IV-E Prevention Services Program Plan. The Children’s Bureau strongly urges states to administer programs as designed, without adaptation, whenever possible. States should notify the cognizant regional office of any virtual adaptations implemented.

How To Request Flexibility: Title IV-E agencies in jurisdictions that have major disaster declarations that want to request flexibility in meeting the requirements must complete Attachment A (and Attachment B, if applicable) included in the PI and submit it to its Children’s Bureau Regional Program Office.

Additional Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Guidance & Resources

Children’s Bureau COVID-19 Resources: A collection of guidance documents and materials for child welfare providers, caregivers, caseworkers, and communities.

Child Welfare Worker Safety in the Time of COVID: CDC Recommendations for In-Person Interactions with Families: A webinar that reviews relevant guidance and recommendations by the CDC on how to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while conducting in-person interactions with children and families.

ACF Grant Flexibilities in Conducting Human Service Activities: States can continue charging salaries to the federal grant in accordance with how salaries are paid now. ACF will accept other allowable costs (e.g., program-related, allocable, and reasonable costs) that are necessary to resume activities supported by the award—to be charged to the awards, consistent with applicable federal cost principles and the benefit to the project. Reference: Information Memorandum IM-ACF-OA-2020-02

Video Conferencing Guidelines & Resources: During circumstances when an emergency prohibits or strongly discourages person-to-person contact for public health reasons, the in-person child/caseworker home visit requirement is waived, and monthly caseworker visits are permitted to be accomplished through video conferencing.

Legal & Court Requirements: ACF identifies statutory requirements that cannot be waived and delivers the expectation that courts and states will work together to determine how best to balance child-safety-related statutory requirements against public health mandates, and that courts can and should use flexible means of convening required hearings.

COVID-19 Resources for Child Welfare: Select resources outlining guidance for social workers and caregivers to support and address the unique needs of children, youth, and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allowable Costs for Cell Phone & Maintaining Contact: The purchase and operation of cell phones for children/youth in foster care, their parents, or foster parents is allowable under Title IV-B and/or the Chafee Program. Resources available through Assurance Wireless offer eligible low-income individuals free monthly data, unlimited texting, and free monthly minutes and a free phone.

Allowable Costs for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): PPE used by child welfare caseworkers to minimize exposure to COVID-19 is an allowable case management administrative cost under Title IV-E and an allowable expenditure of Title IV-B funds for purposes such as caseworker visits by state and tribal Title IV-B agencies. Under Title IV-B, the purchase of PPE for providers such as foster parents, kinship providers, and staff of child care institutions may be allowable if it fits within one of the purposes outlined under Title IV-B, Subpart 2.

Title IV-E Reviews Postponed Indefinitely: ACF announces an updated postponement of Title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility Reviews and the National Youth in Transition Database Reviews for the foreseeable future in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Existing Title IV-E Flexibilities: ACF highlights a number of existing Title IV-E flexibilities for states to take advantage of that may help agencies better serve children, youth, and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Title IV-E agencies may establish a rate structure that enhances foster care maintenance payments (FCMP) for children who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Title IV-E agencies may establish and apply modified foster family home licensing standards.
  • Title IV-E agencies may claim a full month’s foster care maintenance payment (FCMP) if a child’s brief absence from an otherwise allowable provider does not exceed 14 days and the child’s placement continues with the same provider after the absence, as long as all other eligibility requirements are met.
  • Title IV-E agencies are encouraged to allow quick and developmentally appropriate re-entry into foster care for youth over 18.
  • Federal child welfare law does not dictate a distinction between hazard pay and other types of pay. States and tribes determine worker salaries, and Title IV-E agencies may claim any allowable Title IV-E administrative costs associated with this work.
  • Title IV-E agencies with an approved Title IV-E plan amendment to serve youth in foster care until age 21 or a comparable program using state or tribal funds may extend Chafee Program services until age 23.

Archive


Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

Stimulus Rebates: One-time direct payments to individuals according to income levels from 2018 and 2019 income tax returns, and payment per child under age 17 who is claimed as a dependent

Opportunities to support foster parents who may not be eligible for the dependent child rebates:

  • Increase personal incidentals for foster children considering offsets from decreased transportation costs, extracurricular/fun activity costs, etc.


Increase to Title IV-B:
Includes $45 million in funding for Child Welfare Services under Title IV-B, which provides grants to states and tribes to develop and expand services to protect and promote the welfare of all children. This will be distributed to states based on the current Title IV-B Subpart 1 formula.

Extra: Key Provisions of the CARES Act for Community-Based Human Service Organizations

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Funding

HUD awarded $24.4 million to public housing authorities nationwide through the Family Unification Program to provide stable housing to young adults (ages 18-24) who have aged out of the foster care system and are at risk of homelessness, and families whose lack of adequate housing is the primary reason their children are in foster care.

Additional Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Guidance & Resources

Family First Transition Act Transition Grants: ACF will not require a separate application for this funding. Transition grants may be used for any purpose specified in Title IV-B Subparts 1 and 2. Funds may also be used for activities directly associated with implementation of the Families First Prevention Services Act. Funds are estimated to be released by June 2020.

Kinship Navigator Funding: ACF announced a deadline extension for these applications until May 1, 2020. This funding is non-competitive funding to support the development, enhancement, or evaluation of kinship navigator programs.

 

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1 State to identify social workers as “emergency workers”