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A Guide to Leveraging Recent Legislation to Support Older Youth

Two recently passed bills — the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) —offer timely opportunities to reinforce and expand recovery priorities for older youth and fill gaps in services and supports, to complement the American Rescue Plan Act funding.

This guide highlights key funding streams in each Act that can be tapped to meet the often-overlooked needs of youth in their teens and early 20s, including strengthening workforce pathways, mental health, and integrated services in schools and beyond.

December 2022 Update: The White House shared an Inflation Reduction Act guidebook, that provides advocates and communities with detailed information about the program and tax incentives available.

For in-depth information and guidance on accessing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill for local priorities, be sure to check out the Local Infrastructure Hub from RESULTS for America, NLC, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and other partners.

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Key Application Deadlines:

  • Nothing for January 2023: Check Back soon!

Looking for an overview? Start with this webinar.

How Can You Help Direct Funds to Serve Older Youth?

Here are steps policymakers can take to direct funding to older youth:

  • Connect with colleagues from across youth-serving programs, including through children’s cabinets and other interagency bodies, to focus on the needs of older youth.
  • Leverage both data and program expertise to identify where older youth would benefit from more support — and how existing data and systems might capture that impact going forward.
  • Use data from your jurisdiction and program partners to identify successful strategies that can be expanded or supplemented.
  • Identify federal funding opportunities to help meet these needs:
    • How can formula funds be tapped?
      • Will these formula funds automatically flow to your jurisdiction?
      • For local jurisdictions, will your state conduct competitions to allocate formula funds it receives?
    • What competitive grants might be tapped?
      • Can your jurisdiction apply directly to the federal government?
      • What public or non-profit partnerships might be leveraged to apply?
  • Work with community organizations and stakeholders to make sure that eligible organizations know about funding and how to apply, including funding directly from the federal government as well as funding that will first go to states and/or localities.

Here are some steps advocates can take to work with decision-makers to use this funding to support older youth:

  • Identify how much in federal funding (e.g., American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA, BSCA, IRA funds) your state and locality has received.
  • Determine the people or governing body(ies) that are responsible for implementation in your community:
    • Figure out where your jurisdiction is in the process;
    • Find out whether the funds are dedicated to specific programs.
  • Learn more about the types of programs your state and local decisionmakers (e.g. legislator, and/or administrator) have expressed interest in and/or is invested in.
  • Organize members of your community, especially youth and young adults themselves, who can speak to the needs and challenges of older youth such as Opportunity Youth and systems involved youth.
  • Organize members of your community who can share the benefits, impacts and challenges of funding coordination and program implementation.
  • Build strategic partnerships and leverage the resources and knowledge of stakeholders within your network and communities.
  • Design an outreach and engagement campaign strategy:
    • Work with community stakeholders who are prioritizing youth populations;
    • Define the “ask.”
  • Reach out to your elected official’s office or the authorized governing agency and find out more.
  • Once you know who has decision-making power of spending in your community, take action by launching your campaign and ensuring that all stakeholders are sharing out similar messages with your clearly defined ask.

Available Funds

1. Developing the Workforce: Advancing Equity through Jobs for Youth and the Adults who Serve Them

Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grant (ECJBG). Under IRA, the ECJBG is designed to invest in community-led projects and in community capacity building through a variety of programs and activities that will include engaging “disadvantaged communities” through state and federal advisory programs, rulemakings, and other processes.

  • Funding available: $2.8 billion in competitive funds from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with another $200 million dedicated to technical assistance.
  • Who is eligible for funds: Local government, tribes, institutes of higher education, community-based nonprofit organizations, and partnerships of community-based nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply.
  • Process and timing to get funds: The EPA is tasked with defining key language, processes, and grant requirements. As “disadvantaged communities” have not been defined under IRA, the EPA will determine how ECJBG programs will be designed, implemented, and monitored. Funding will be available until September 30, 2026.
  • Where to find more info: The EPA recently announced the launch of the new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights. General updates from the Administration can be found here. General agency updates from the EPA will be shared here, including OEJ announcements and upcoming community engagement calls. In December 2022, the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights held a community engagement call to respond to questions and share updates about upcoming opportunities and supports available for implementation and technical assistance grants. Learn more here.

BSCA provides for innovative partnerships to train and deploy school-based mental health service providers in schools. The purpose is to expand the pipeline of high-quality, trained professionals to address shortages of mental health services in high-need schools and to provide supports that encompass social and emotional learning, mental wellness, resilience, and positive connections between students and adults.

  • Funding available: $500 million in total competitive grants from the Department of Education (ED). The newly released grant opportunity will make an expected 150 to 250 awards ranging from $400,000 to $1,200,000 each.
  • Who is eligible for funds: High-need local education agencies (LEAs) or state education agencies (SEAs) applying on behalf of one or more high-need LEAs, working in partnership with an eligible institution of higher education (IHE). For the competition using fiscal year 2022 annual appropriations, ED will also permit IHEs to apply on behalf of such a partnership.
  • Process and timing to get funds: ED released a notice inviting applications on October 4th. Applications are due November 3, 2022.
  • Where to find more info: ED’s National Center for Safe and Supportive Learning Environments offers overview information for both the program itself and states already participating. It also maintains current info about this and related grant competitions here.

These BSCA funds are to increase the number of qualified mental health service providers delivering school-based mental health services to students in local educational agencies (LEAs) with demonstrated need.

  • Funding available: $500 million in competitive grants from ED, with estimated awards ranging from $500,000 to $3,000,000 for each 12-month budget period for up to five years. An estimated 50 to 150 awards are expected under the newly released grant opportunity. 
  • Who is eligible for funds: In addition to state education agencies (SEAs), ED is also allowing LEAs as eligible applicants for the competition using FY22 annual appropriations. Stay tuned for ED’s guidance on upcoming competitions using BSCA funds.
  • Process and timing to get funds: ED released a notice inviting applications on October 4th. Applications are due November 3, 2022.
  • Where to find more info: ED maintains a dedicated page for this program, including a resource brochure for applicants and stakeholders. ED’s National Center for Safe and Supportive Learning Environments maintains current info about this and related grant competitions here

2. Supporting Mental Health: Expanding Your Community’s Reach

BSCA includes additional funds for this formula-based block grant supporting comprehensive community mental health services. These flexible dollars focus on adults 18 and older with serious mental illnesses as well as “children with serious emotional disturbances.”

  • Funding available: $250 million in formula funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
  • Who is eligible for funds: The MHGB formula allots funds to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. These recipients may distribute funds to local government entities and non-governmental organizations.
  • Process and timing to get funds: SAMHSA will allocate these funds using the existing MHGB formula by December 31, 2022. Further guidance is pending from SAMHSA.
  • Where to get more info: See SAMHSA’s block grant webpage.

The BSCA phases in the expansion of the existing Certified Community Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC) demonstration, through which states can test new strategies for community behavioral health services. CCBHCs offer comprehensive mental health and substance use disorder services to vulnerable individuals and receive enhanced Medicaid reimbursement based on anticipated costs. They are required to provide expertise in addressing trauma and promoting the recovery of children and adolescents with “serious emotional disturbance.”

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing’s CCBHCs and Youth Mental Health brief highlights CCBHC requirements to meet youth needs and how states are implementing them, including in school and juvenile detention environments.

  • Funding available: SAMHSA is offering 15 planning grants up to $1 million; applications are due December 19, 2022 (see link below). These year-long planning grants are to prepare to apply for the four-year demonstration.  
  • Who is eligible for funds: The State Mental Health Authority, the Single State Agency for Substance Abuse Services, or the State Medicaid Agency are eligible; a range of entities can serve as on-the-ground CCBHCs, including nonprofit, state, tribal, and local organizations.
  • Process and timing to get funds: Apply now! The notice of funding opportunity is available here.
  • Where to get more info: SAMHSA’s site maintains background and technical information. In addition, program overview and implementation findings from a national evaluation are available through HHS.

BSCA appropriated these funds to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth, provide training for school personnel and other adults who interact with school-aged youth to detect and respond to mental health issues, and connect school-aged youth who may have behavioral health issues, and their families, to needed services.

  • Funding available: $240 million over four years from SAMHSA.
  • Who is eligible for funds: States, Indian tribes or tribal organizations, local government entities such as a county or local education agency (LEA), or nonprofit entities may apply.
  • Process and timing to get funds: Apply Now! On September 1, 2022, SAMHSA announced two specific funding opportunities under Project AWARE:
    • $37.6 million for Project AWARE to develop a sustainable infrastructure for school-based mental health programs and services that promote the healthy social and emotional development of school-aged youth, and prevent youth violence in school settings. Applications were due on October 13, 2022, with an anticipated award date of December 30, 2022.
    • $10 million for the Resiliency in Communities after Stress and Trauma (ReCAST) grant program to assist high-risk youth and families by promoting resilience and equity in communities that have recently faced civil unrest, community violence, and/or collective trauma through implementation of evidence-based, violence prevention, and community youth engagement programs, as well as linkages to trauma-informed behavioral health services. Applications were due October 17, 2022 with an anticipated award date of December 30, 2022.
  • Where to get more info: SAMHSA maintains information on both Project AWARE overall and Project ReCAST specifically.

3. Strengthening Schools: Meeting More of Young People’s Needs

BSCA provided supplemental appropriations specifically for supporting safe and healthy students, one of three broad categories of use authorized for SSAE grants under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). For Stronger Connections grant, SEAs will receive allotments using the existing formula in ESSA and then award competitive grants to high-need LEAs. LEAs may use funds to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive programs and activities that are coordinated with other schools and community-based services and programs; foster safe, healthy, supportive, and drug-free environments that support student academic achievement; and promote parent involvement in the activity or program. Funds are authorized for use through fiscal year 2025.

  • Funding available: $1 billion in formula funding from ED.
  • Who is eligible for funds: ED has announced the grant allocations to each state, which will award grants to LEAs through a competitive process. LEAs may partner with other organizations to conduct activities and programming.
  • Process and timing to get funds: Each SEA is responsible for specific competition parameters and for defining “high-need” LEAs. This Dear Colleague letter from Secretary for Education Cardona outlines three priorities for SEAs to consider: comprehensive, evidence-based strategies; student, family, staff, and community engagement; and equity and responsiveness.
  • Where to get more info: ED maintains a site for SSAE grants. The Congressional Research Service provides a summary of this and other education provisions in BSCA.

BSCA further funds 21st CCLC for summer and afterschool programs to support school-aged youth during non-school hours. Funds are available through September 2023 and may be used for activities that improve student academic achievement and support student success. Examples include academic enrichment learning programs, mentoring, tutoring, well-rounded education activities, programs to support a healthy and active lifestyle, drug and violence prevention programs, counseling programs, and programs that build career competencies and career readiness. BSCA directs ED these 21st CCLC funds to “increase support for the implementation of evidence-based practices intended to increase attendance and engagement of students in the middle grades and high school in community learning centers.”

  • Funding available: $50 million from ED.
  • Who is eligible: SEAs may receive funds directly from ED.
  • Process and timing to get funds: SEAs receive formula grants and in turn award grants to local entities – such as LEAs or community-based organizations – on a competitive basis.
  • Where to find more info: A list of 21st CCLC state contacts and web sites is available through the ED website. On October 27, ED released a memo with guidance on how the FY22 Supplemental Grant Awards for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program may be used.

4. Promoting Justice and Public Safety: Reducing Violence while Addressing Trauma

BSCA funds a community violence intervention and prevention initiative but does not provide other direction. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) current Community-Based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative supports evidence-informed, “multidisciplinary strategies that “engage individuals and groups to prevent and disrupt cycles of violence and retaliation, and establish relationships between individuals and community assets to deliver services that save lives, address trauma, provide opportunity, and improve the physical, social, and economic conditions that drive violence.”

  • Funding available: $250 million from DOJ.
  • Who is eligible: Guidance is forthcoming.
  • Process and timeline: Guidance is forthcoming. These funds will remain available until they are fully used.
  • Where to find more information: Resources regarding recent grant competitions under this initiative are available here.