The US Department of Education has released $600 million in funding under the American Rescue Plan Act’s Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) program to support students who are experiencing homelessness. The approval will give states and school districts access to this funding for the 2021-2022 school year.
“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. 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,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
States will be required to submit plans for their use of the ARP-HCy funds within two months.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated homelessness amongst the American population. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that there were 226,000 Americans living unsheltered in December of 2020, an increase of 30% since 2015. At the beginning of the pandemic, major cities were taking measures to mitigate homelessness, as shelters were hotspots for the spread of COVID-19. However, with infection rates decreasing, these measures are dying out. Much of the measures and laws passed were thus seen as a way to curb people who are homeless to protect those with homes.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance which critics say “basically makes being homeless in the city a crime.” The provision bans sitting, sleeping, or storing items around parks, schools, libraries, and other public facilities. It also bans camping on sidewalks, underpasses, freeway ramps, and within 1,000 of shelters. The criminalization of being homeless is also furthering the private prison system – where it is possible now that those without homes will be sent to prisons and jails.
The pandemic should have shown us that it takes one situation for people to have no income – one missed rent payment can lead to eviction. As we fight for eviction moratoriums to be extended, we also need to fight for those that are homeless before, during, and after the pandemic.