After a tough year, young adults who have spent time in foster care could be getting some much-needed help to pay for essentials like housing, utilities, transportation, education, food or other basic needs.

But with just over two months to distribute the pandemic relief, the challenge is finding those young people who may not be in touch with state agencies or their former foster parents. Congress should extend the program’s deadline, as advocates like the National Foster Youth Institute have requested. Regardless, eligible Washingtonians should quickly apply.

Federal lawmakers earmarked $400 million for one-time pandemic relief of up to $1,000 for former foster-care youth in last December’s appropriation. Eligible are people aged 23-26 who spent at least 30 days in care between the ages of 15-18. Advocates estimate that includes about 2,800 young adults in Washington, but they must apply for the funds before Sept. 24.

Young adults who were in foster care in another state but now live in Washington also are eligible. A week after applications opened, only about 300 people had applied, said Dawn Rains, executive vice president and chief policy and strategy officer for Treehouse. The educational nonprofit was contracted by the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families to field applications and distribute the payments.

“Many of these young people might not have been in foster care for eight to 10 years,” Rains said. “So the big trick is actually finding them.”

“We have a pretty heavy lift over the next 60 days.”

Their efforts are especially important because alumni of the foster-care system may not be able to lean on strong family networks that other young adults have relied on to get through pandemic job loss and uncertainty.

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Treehouse staff are scrambling to get the word out, reaching out to colleague organizations that serve young adults, connecting with foster parents who might still be in touch with eligible young adults.

Congress can help by giving them more time.

If you know of any young people who might qualify, please let them know. To apply for Washington Foster Care Pandemic Aid, visit treehouseforkids.org/pandemic-aid