Homeless Infants, Toddlers Early Intervention Bill Headed to Governor;

C4WW Priority Designed to Close Hole in PA’s Social Safety Net

HARRISBURG – The state Senate today approved legislation making homeless infants and toddlers automatically eligible to for early intervention services and tracking.

The legislation, a top priority of the Campaign for What Works, awaits the governor’s signature to become law. It passed the Senate 50-0.

House Bill 2204, authored by Rep. Justin Simmons, R-Lehigh, is designed to fill a hole in Pennsylvania’s social safety net.

There are an estimated 6,000 homeless infants and toddlers under the age of three across Pennsylvania.Under existing law, there is no assurance these children will be connected with the services they may need. HB 2204 corrects that mistake by including these children among the groups automatically eligible for intervention services and tracking.

“These babies are born into a situation that places them at a dangerous disadvantage from the start,” Rep. Simmons said. “They did not choose to be homeless. My legislation removes barriers to help the families of these children get the assistance and resources they need to ensure a brighter future. It is simply the right thing to do.”

The legislation received fast-track consideration in both the House and the Senate. It had strong bipartisan support as it was introduced, and was unanimously approved in both bodies.

“No infant or toddler should ever fall through a hole in our social safety net,” said Robert Nelkin, head of the United Way of Allegheny County, and a leader of the Campaign for What Works. “This legislation is an important step to make sure these very young children can get help when they need it the most – at the beginning of their lives.”

The Campaign for What Works organized an 80-member coalition of groups across Pennsylvania to advocate on behalf of these vulnerable children. Research shows that homeless children are at high risk to suffer multiple developmental delays, emotional and behavioral problems, and learning issues when the enter school.

Liz Hersh, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, and a key leader of the coalition, said “there is no reason for any baby or toddler in Pennsylvania to not get the help it needs.”

“This legislation closes a hole in the safety net. It ensures that tracking of homeless infants and toddlers is available, and that the services will be there if needed. It’s an important step forward,” she said.