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Yarmuth's Bill to Aid Disadvantaged Youth Signed into Law

Yarmuth given national award for legislation
that originated at his disconnected youth forum in Louisville

(Washington, DC) Today, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) announced that the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act, which he introduced this past March, has been signed into law.  The National Network for Youth came to town for the event, presenting Congressman Yarmuth with an award for outstanding leadership on youth issues.

The major five-year reauthorization bill will strengthen the main source of federal funding for disconnected youth outside of the foster care and juvenile justice system by expanding services, authorizing $140 million, allowing young people to stay in shelters longer, and calling for regular studies to assess the effectiveness of the system.

“This legislation belongs to the Louisville community.  In numerous meetings and forums that I've hosted, Louisville's youth advocates have consistently made the case for better services and resources to help disconnected youth, and I was proud to take their concerns and ideas to Congress," Congressman Yarmuth said.  "For more than a million children each year, the new law could mean the difference between continuing to live on the streets without hope or finding a path to successful adulthood.”

“We must do everything we can to help homeless and runaway youth be safe and healthy and receive the services they need to become productive, successful members of our society – whether that means returning to school, reuniting with their families, or becoming part of the nation’s workforce,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “I commend Rep. Yarmuth for his hard work on this legislation, which will provide shelter, protection, and valuable support to hundreds of thousands of young Americans.”

Victoria Wagner, Chief Executive Officer of the National Network for Youth, also praised Yarmuth's achievement:  “John Yarmuth is an extraordinary advocate for these abandoned young people.   His work in crafting this reauthorization not only makes these programs available for five more years but provides a desperately needed base for an increase in funding to 400 organizations across the nation.  What is more, it makes the entire system fairer and more efficient.  We are also grateful for his leadership in related legislation that provides protections, options, and opportunities for these youth.”

Sandy Bowen, executive director of National Safe Place praised Yarmuth for his “abiding commitment and effective legislative leadership.”  She added, “John Yarmuth has demonstrated unusual skill as a first-term Congressman in moving this vital legislation through a complex and challenging legislative session.  We are proud of his work.”

Last June, Yarmuth hosted a national forum on runaway and homeless youth, which brought more than 100 youth service organizations, experts, and advocates to Louisville to collaborate and offer input in the crafting of the legislation.  That same month, Yarmuth testified before the House Ways & Means Committee alongside Grammy Nominee, Jewel—once homeless herself, to discuss funding levels for services to America's unaccompanied youth.  The following month, Congressman Yarmuth brought Louisvillian, Rusty Booker, a former runaway to testify at Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities hearing on "Runaway, Homeless, and Missing Children: Perspectives on Helping the Nation's Vulnerable Youth." 

“The programs that this law will support made it possible for me to turn my life around and and work for kids that are struggling like I was,” said Nick Brown, a former runaway who now works with disconnected youth at Safe Place.  “Thanks to Congressman Yarmuth for fighting for our nation's youth, so they can get help that I once needed.”

The Reconnecting Homeless and Youth Act will:

  • Reauthorize and increase authorization levels for programs under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.
  • Increase authorization by a third, from $105 million to $140 million.
  • Double the RHYA Basic Center Program allotments for small states from $100,000 to $200,000.
  • Permit the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers grants under the RHYA, to redistribute unexpended funds from other BCP applicants for a one-year grant period, after which the amount would be returned to the BCP general pool for reallocation.
  • Require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop every five years a national estimate of the prevalence of homeless youth
  • Create emergency management plans at each center prompted by the aftermath of Katrina.
  • Call for GAO report to increase grant-making efficiency.
  • Provide grants for research evaluation with priority on mental health, education, and workforce development.
  • Allows extensions in length of stay in basic centers from 14 days to up to 21 days, and in transitional living projects from 18 months to 21 months.