The Imprint | Pandemic Relief Funds for California Foster Youth Slow to Reach Needy Young Adults as Deadline Approaches

Illustration by Christine Ongjoco

September 21, 2021 – LOS ANGELES, CA (Link to article)

Struggling through the coronavirus pandemic in one of the nation’s most costly states without family to rely on, first-year college student Clarissa Peña needs to find a way to pay for meals and school expenses without hefty cash reserves on hand.

So when she learned that California would be distributing millions of dollars in pandemic relief funds to current and former foster youth this year, she jumped at the chance to apply.

“I had no idea this was a thing,” Peña, 18, said in an interview with The Imprint.

Her mind quickly leapt to all that the funds could help her cover: tuition, books, food. “That’s one issue I’m struggling with,” she said. “I have a 10 meal-per-week plan and I ration that out.”

Peña is one of roughly 31,000 current and former foster youth that the Golden State projected would be eligible to apply for the federal pandemic assistance funds when the program was announced in June.

But months later — with a deadline this Friday to apply for the funds — far fewer have been approved.

As of last week, just 6,000 young people ages 18 through 20 had been verified as eligible to receive one-time relief funds between $600 and $1,500 per person, according to data provided by the California Department of Social Services. The nonprofit group helping process applications reports that roughly 3,000 California foster youth have received their payments through virtual currency, totalling $2.3 million.

Peña is among those left waiting for the lifeline assistance to arrive.


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