The congressional effort to provide tax incentives for hiring current and former foster youths has resurfaced, with bills that could be introduced in both chambers as early as today.
The Improved Employment Outcomes for Foster Youth Act 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.
The bill’s current co-sponsors are Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Danny Davis (D-Ill.). The bill was conceived of by iFoster, a Truckee, Calif.-based nonprofit that has developed a workforce training program for foster youth that partners with several big employers, including Starbucks and Raley’s grocery store.
More than 400 youth have come through the program and earned employment, according to iFoster founder Serita Cox. It has recently expanded out of California, adding training for youth in New York City.
Advocates for the foster youth tax credit, first introduced in 2016, had hoped to work the legislation into the tax reform efforts in 2017. The hope now is to mesh it with a legislative update of WOTC itself, which is due for reauthorization by December of 2019.
“It looks very strongly like this will go into the whole [WOTC] reauthorization discussion,” Cox told Youth Services Insider.