Legislation aimed at extending the state support net for children who age out of foster care is expected to sail through the Senate — again — within the next two weeks.
The Georgia House of Representatives passed the measure last week. It provides up to $20 million in state tax credits to offset donations to certified agencies providing follow-up assistance in areas such as education, housing, counseling, medical and transportation services.
Georgia’s foster care program generally takes children through age 18. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who proposed the program, said there’s a critical need for further support for youth who often find themselves alone at that point. The assistance would run through age 21 or, in certain cases, age 25.
“I applaud the House for unanimously passing this critical priority — making Georgia the No. 1 state for foster youth,” said Duncan. “This dollar-for-dollar state tax credit is a significant step toward achieving that recognition by ensuring youth who have recently aged out of the system have the necessary support system to transition into adulthood.”
House Bill 424, filed Feb. 11, is essentially the same as Senate Bill 370, which passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 8. It was assigned to the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome.
“These kids don’t have parents to make them successful and it’s a great way to give them some help,” Hufstetler said during the hearing on SB 370.
On Monday the committee unanimously passed out the House bill without a hearing. The Senate bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, said there was just a minor technical change, which had been asked for by the Georgia Department of Revenue.
It’s now awaiting a full Senate floor vote, then on to the governor for signature.
Duncan said it’s modeled on the Rural Hospital Tax Credit program, but it’s more than just funding.
“It’s really a policy credit,” Duncan said. “If a kid is going to age out of the foster care system with no head start, just imagine all the services they’re going to need later on.”
However, HB 424 came out of the House Ways and Means Committee as tax legislation, without the “Fostering Success Act” title of the Senate bill.
The bill also caps the donation an individual or corporation may give, and it spells out qualifications and transparency rules for organizations that can receive the money.
As of Tuesday, there are eight official days left in the 2022 Georgia General Assembly session, which is scheduled to wrap up April 4.