Foster Youth Jobs Bill Introduced in Both Chambers

A bill aimed at incentivizing employers to hire current and former foster youth has been introduced in the House and Senate.

The Improved Employment Outcomes For Foster Youth Act (H.R. 2060 and S. 885) would provide tax credits of up to $2,400 to employers who hire current and former foster youth between the ages of 18 and 27.

This is achieved by making youth who were in foster care at age 16 an eligible category under the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), which incentivizes the hiring of certain groups who struggle with barriers to employment. The credit began 20 years ago as an incentive to hire veterans, but its scope has widened to include citizens with certain hiring challenges.

WOTC is claimable on an annual basis. Each foster youth in care at age 18 carries a claimable value of $21,600 between then and age 26. Based on recent trends in the number of youth who age out of care into adulthood, about 200,000 workers would be eligible for the foster youth WOTC each year.

The concept is born of a work partnership forged by the California nonprofit iFoster and Raley’s, a California-based supermarket chain. The program has expanded to include Starbucks, manufacturer Mondelez International and other partners.

iFoster Executive Director Serita Cox said that when she discussed a larger scale effort with employers, they strongly supported a tax credit model over subsidized employment.

At a Capitol Hill policy briefing in February, bill proponents said they hoped the bill could be slipped into any tax reform legislation that made its way through Congress.

“As we talk about tax reform, we hope this bill becomes part of the conversation,” said Jeff Newton, vice president of business development for Freight Handlers, Inc.

The Improved Employment Outcomes for Foster Youth Act was first introduced in September, in the waning weeks of the 114th Congress. The bill’s sponsors include Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

“A good job is a path to the middle class,” said Casey, in a press release announcing the bill’s introduction this week. “This legislation offers practical incentives to employers that work to support those who have already overcome so much. By strengthening foster youth’s employment opportunities, we are making an investment in the next generation of workers.”

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.