California schools will receive more than $74 million in federal money to serve homeless students, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced recently.

The money is part of the American Rescue Plan Act’s Homeless Children and Youth Fund, an $800 million fund to help youth who’ve experienced homelessness during the pandemic. DOE distributed the first $200 million in April and the remaining $600 million at the end of July.

California’s total portion is $98 million, more than any other state. These funds may be used in accordance with all allowable uses under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (HCY) Program, including:

  • Providing wraparound services (which could be provided in collaboration with and/or through contracts with community-based organizations and could include academic supports, trauma informed care, social-emotional support and mental health services);
  • Purchasing needed supplies (e.g., personal protective equipment, eyeglasses, school supplies, personal care items);
  • Providing transportation to enable children and youth to attend classes and participate fully in school activities;
  • Purchasing cell phones or other technological devices for unaccompanied youth to enable the youth to attend and fully participate in school activities;
  • Providing access to reliable, high-speed internet for students through the purchase of internet connected devices/equipment, mobile hotspots, wireless service plans, or installation of community wi-fi hotspots (e.g., at homeless shelters), especially in underserved communities;
  • Paying for short-term, temporary housing (e.g., a few days in a motel) when such emergency housing is the only reasonable option for COVID-safe temporary housing and when necessary to enable the homeless child or youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities (including summer school); and
  • Providing store cards/pre-paid debit cards to purchase materials necessary for students to participate in school activities.

(More information will be provided soon regarding ESSER III HCY.)

Distribution of  the remaining funds will give states and school districts access to this critical funding before the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

Schools can use the money to improve the way they identify homeless students, as well as provide them with services such as school transportation and supplies, counseling, housing vouchers and other amenities.

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic highlighted and exacerbated inequities in America’s education system, students experiencing homelessness faced numerous challenges as they strove to learn and achieve in school each day,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Amid Covid-19 and the transition to remote and hybrid learning, for so many students, these challenges intensified. As a nation, we must do everything we can to ensure that all students — including students experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity — are able to access an excellent education.”