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April 21, 2020

Rep. Trone, Rep. Horn Introduce Bipartisan CARE for Kids Act


Rep. Trone, Rep. Horn Introduce Bipartisan CARE for Kids Act

WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, Congressman David Trone (MD-06) and Congresswoman Kendra Horn (OK-5) introduced the bipartisan CARE for Kids Act, legislation that would extend automatic eligibility for free school meals to certain vulnerable groups of children. Under the bill, children living in alternative or informal care arrangements, including those living with relatives such as grandparents would be eligible for free school meals. Co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Don Bacon (NE-2), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), and Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15).

While the stimulus legislation which Congress passed in March temporarily expands free school meal eligibility to all children for the remainder of the COVID-19 health crisis, the ensuing economic downturn is expected to plunge an estimated 10 million Americans into poverty, exacerbating hunger and food instability. In Oklahoma, expanded free school meal eligibility will run out on June 30 or when the federally declared public health emergency expires. The CARE for Kids Act would expand free school meal eligibility following the expiration of COVID-19 programs.

“Our fight against childhood hunger is taking on a new level of urgency,” said Congresswoman Horn. “Before the pandemic, one in four children in Oklahoma were food insecure. As tens of thousands of Oklahomans face unemployment, the struggle for many families to put food on the table is only going to get harder. After expanded school meal eligibility from the COVID-19 response ends, this bill will ensure that children who are being cared for by grandparents or other family members don’t go hungry. The CARE for Kids Act is a bipartisan step toward ending childhood hunger made even more important by the crisis we face today.”

“Many grandparents and other family members have taken on the responsibility of raising the children of kin who cannot because of opioids, other drugs, financial or alternative reasons,” said Congressman Bacon. “By granting access to the school meals program, we can better support vulnerable youth and these family members in the important and heartfelt task they have taken on.”

The CARE for Kids Act is endorsed by anti-hunger organizations including the Food Resource and Action Center (FRAC), Hunger Free Oklahoma, the School Superintendent’s Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of Teachers, Association of School Business Officials International, Feeding America, Generations United, National Education Association, National Rural Action Committee, National Rural Education Association, School Social Work Association of America, and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

The CARE for Kids Act builds on existing school meal eligibility for foster care by ensuring that local education agencies (LEAs), including Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools, have the option to provide automatic eligibility to children cared for by a relative, children cared for by grandparents or other relatives due to placement by a State or Tribal Child Welfare Agency, and children living in “grandfamily” housing or receiving housing assistance under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA).

“Children can sidestep the foster care system when a family member is able to take on a new role in that child’s life,” said Chris Bernard, Executive Director of Hunger Free Oklahoma. “The CARE for Kids Act ensures these families receive the same support that foster families receive when taking on this new, and often unexpected, role of caring for children. We are grateful for the leadership of Congresswoman Horn and Congressman Bacon to help close this gap in support for families during a time of transition.”

“Grandparents and other relatives caring for children impacted by the opioid epidemic will likely face additional challenges as the economic and health crisis created by COVID-19 continues to unfold,” said Luis Guardia, President of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). “FRAC is proud to endorse the CARE for Kids Act, which will ensure access to free, healthy school meals and provide struggling families with the critical nutrition and financial support they need.”