The Education Department has released $600 million to states to bolster services for students experiencing homelessness.

States and districts are set to use the funding to identify children experiencing homelessness or housing instability and boost wraparound services – like housing assistance, clothing, food and mental health support – that they already provide with funding through the McKinney-Vento Act, which is the federal education law that provides aid to states to help them support students experiencing homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness at some point during the 2017-18 school year according to the Children’s Defense Fund.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s once-a-year count published in March showed that more than 106,000 children were homeless, including almost 11,000 who were living outside.

The count took place in January 2020, meaning it does not reflect the pandemic which experts say exacerbated homelessness among students, especially for colored and Indigenous children who already experience housing instability at the highest rates.

The funding is part of the $130 billion included in the most recent relief package for K-12 education.

The majority of the $600 million will flow directly to school districts through a formula that takes into account a district’s population of children and youth experiencing homelessness and the proportion of students who come from low-income families.

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