The deadline of March 31 for signing up for the Affordable Care Act is quickly approaching. However, if you are eligible for Medicaid, you can enroll at anytime, and do not have to meet the March 31 deadline. Our Youth & Young Adult Committee learned this, and much more from Tabitha Jensen, Executive Director of Teen Feed, who came to their meeting this morning and gave a presentation on the importance of signing up young people for the Affordable Care Act. If you are interested in learning more, you can see her presentation: Teen Feed Youth & Young Adult Healthcare Presentation.
What does it take to fill nearly 1,300 backpacks? A lot of planning, a lot of supplies, a lot of backpacks, but most of all A LOT OF FANTASTIC VOLUNTEERS!
During our five volunteer days, we had over 90 volunteers help stuff backpacks for nearly 1,300 homeless children. We had volunteers from age 4 – age 70+ volunteer with Project Cool this year to make sure that every homeless child served by Project Cool could go back to school in September equipped with the same tools for success as every other child in his or her class. Our youngest volunteers were truly some of the best volunteers, they worked hard and had excellent attitudes, even through the long 3 hour shifts when they had to carry heavy backpacks up long flights of stairs. One of our youngest volunteers even came up and asked me, “Can I volunteer with you again soon?” I told her that we would be happy to have her again next year, and she quickly told me, “But next year is SOOOOO far away!”
Project Cool is truly a volunteer-powered project, and without these fantastic, hard-working, and enthusiastic volunteers, we would not be able to provide something so critical – a brand new backpack with school supplies – at the beginning of the school year to 1,300 homeless children in preschool – twelfth grade. The gift of a new backpack gives both the parents and the kids one less thing to worry about – the parents don’t have to worry about one more thing to purchase that they can’t afford, and the kids don’t have to worry about being stigmatized at school because they can’t afford the right supplies or a backpack.
Even though the backpacks are all stuffed, Project Cool isn’t over yet! As you are shopping with your kids for their school supplies, think of ways that you might be able to support Project Cool through a school supply drive. We are already beginning to gear up for next year, and the best time to do that is when everything is on sale. If you would like to host a supply drive or find out how to host a supply drive, contact Kathryn Murdock, 2013 Project Cool Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It is true, bipartisanship really does still exist! The 72-hour notification bill (SB 5147/HB 1250), one of the Coalition’s legislative priorities, passed the Senate unanimously and easily passed in the House this past week with only seven voting against it.
This bill sought to reinstate an important part of the Becca Bill which gave youth shelters up to 72 hours to notify a youth’s guardian after she or he checked into a youth shelter. Because the law “sunset,” the number of hours before a shelter staff person had to contact authorities suddenly decreased from three days to only eight hours. Eight hours is not enough time for the adult staff working at a shelter to engage with youth and be able to develop rapport. Many youth come to shelters after they have run away from disturbed or dangerous family situations, and they need time to feel secure, calm down, and assess their options in a safe place. Thanks to the legislators of our State, youth will now be less likely to avoid shelters for fear that their families, police, or child protective services will be alerted right away. Advocates are now asking Governor Jay Inslee to sign the bill into law on Youth Advocacy Day this Friday, February 22, to show the youth of Washington State that their governor and legislators are behind them.
Even though we have a very exciting win, our advocacy does not stop here. As Youth Advocacy Day approaches, one of the Coalition’s priorities, the Youth Opportunities Act (HB 1651 / SB 5689 ), is still under consideration. Currently Washington is one of only eight states that makes juvenile records open to the public and available to be published online. This means that people with criminal records from their youth, before the age of 18, are subject to additional barriers accessing housing, education, and employment. The Youth Opportunities Act would seal juvenile records to the public, except in the case of serious violent offenses, and prohibit courts from disseminating or selling this information. This information is currently sold to background check companies who make money at the expense of youth and young adults.
The Youth Opportunities Act would remove barriers for young people seeking opportunities, and keep them from paying for childhood mistakes in their adult lives. Please take action to move this bill out of committee and onto the house floor by making a public comment on the Senate version of the bill or by calling your legislators using the legislative hotline, 1-800-562-6000.
P.S. For a great summary of youth advocacy around these and other important issues, check out Senator Frockt’s blog post!