The U.S Department of Education (DOE) announced that $600 million is now available for states to apply for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021’s Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) fund, in which transportation operations could see a portion of the funds.
In April, the DOE released the first $200 million of the total $800 million in ARP-HCY funds to states. The additional $600 million will give states and districts access to the money before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
According to the DOE on Monday, the funds are meant to be flexible so that states and districts can address community needs. A press release noted that the needs of students experiencing homelessness remain urgent, as schools and districts continue to struggle with identifying and serving students experiencing homelessness.
The additional $600 million can be used by states and school districts to not only help identify homeless children and youth but also to “provide wraparound services in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and provide assistance to enable homeless children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities,” the DOE said.
Barbara Duffield, executive director of the nonprofit homeless student advocate School House Connection, told School Transportation News that while funding has yet to reach school districts directly, many school officials have expressed interest in using funds for transportation services.
“We know that transportation needs for these students are likely to rise to the top of back-to-school concerns as more schools resume in-person learning, and social distancing increases the logistical challenges, especially for children who are mobile and need transportation to stay in the same school,” Duffield explained. “One of the most important benefits of having this amount of dedicated funding for homeless students is that more school districts than ever before will have supplemental dollars to support homeless students to enroll, attend and succeed in school – and that certainly will mean addressing transportation needs.”
Following the application process, states will receive funds that will then be awarded to school districts through formula subgrants. This will help reach districts that may not have accessed previous federal funding designed for students experiencing homelessness. Funding will be allocated to school districts based on the number of homeless children and youth identified in either the 2018-2019 school year or the 2019-2020 school year, based on whichever number is greater, the DOE added.
Related: Connecticut School Districts Rely on Transportation to Serve Students Experiencing Homelessness
Related: School Buses Repurposed as Hygiene Stations for Homeless
Related: Identifying Homeless Students Challenging Due to Limited Transportation Services Nationwide
Related: COVID-19 Funding Relief Finally Coming for Private School Bus, Motorcoach Industries
Related: FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund Applications Open Soon
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona stated that challenges for students experiencing homelessness were exacerbated by the pandemic due to the transition to remote and hybrid learning.
“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 that opens doors to opportunity and thriving lives,” he stated. “I encourage every state to urgently use these American Rescue Plan funds to support homeless children and youth so that these students have every chance to participate in summer learning and enrichment, experience full-time, in-person instruction in their schools in the fall and get connected to vital services and supports that can support their success.”