Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) announced on Monday she would be introducing legislation next month to give state financial assistance to children below the age of 18 who lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19.
Under the bill, currently called “The Hope For Children Act,” California would create Hope Savings Accounts for children from lower income families that lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19 since the pandemic started early last year. Children ages 9 and below would receive up to $3,000, with those below 18 getting up to $5,000. The California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS) would be required under the bill to also report to the legislature how much in additional funds and authority it would take to cover those in foster care and other impacted by poverty.
In addition, all children not eligible for federal survivor benefits would still get state support through a new state service called the CalHope Program.
Skinner noted on Monday that she would be introducing the bill due to how COVID-19 deaths affected lower-income families more and how the loss of a parent or caregiver led to a greater strain on finances. According to state estimates, around 20,000 children in California either lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19 since last year. The addition of the foster and other impacted by poverty children being reported to the legislature would also clear the way for Hope Accounts to be given to them in the near future.
“The Hope for Children Act will offer a more secure future to children who lost their parents to this deadly pandemic,” said Senator Skinner in a press release on Monday. “Children who are long-term wards of California’s foster care system and others disproportionately impacted by extreme poverty also face uncertain futures, so the Act creates the possibility of Hope Accounts for these children.”
Proud to announce today that I will introduce legislation to create Hope Savings Accounts for lower-income children who’ve lost a parent or primary caregiver due to COVID-19. https://t.co/qS4pIKF52v
— Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) December 27, 2021
The Hope for Children Act
While Skinner’s proposed legislation was met with approval by many child and anti-poverty groups such as GRACE – End Child Poverty in CA on Monday and Tuesday, others noted that for it to be feasible, strict rules on how the money should be spent need to be in place first.
“While it’s not a bad idea on paper, Skinner needs to really add in language to set spending limits,” said Wallace Keyes, a Los Angeles-based pollster who focuses on homeless, housing, and poverty issues. “Most in the GOP won’t go for it unless those are in place, and many Democrats in wealthier districts will also probably demand it. Same with those in districts that are slight Democratic majority with a strong GOP minority.”
“Something like the funds not being spent on anything besides food, clothes, shelter, healthcare, and schooling until 18. Maybe a living guardian can control it for needs, or maybe it needs to be clear that this is a trust and can’t be touched until 18 at all, in time to pay for college or living expenses if they have one.”
“If Skinner can nail down the language to prove to people that this is not a loose welfare program and really goes only to the betterment of the person with the account, then I think she gets it easily passed. Anything less than that and there will be a fight.”
Skinner’s new bill is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.
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