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Allegheny County gave $3.7 million in pandemic aid to foster youth, who tend to lack safety nets

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA

Allegheny County distributed close to $3.7 million in pandemic aid to foster youth and young adults who have aged out of foster care, as part of a $400 million federal effort to help this group of vulnerable young people during the pandemic.

“Of all the people struggling in the pandemic, this is one of the groups who was hardest hit both economically and socially,” said Courtney Lewis, transition age youth system coordinator at Allegheny County DHS.

Young adults were eligible for aid if they were between the ages of 18 and 26 and had a foster care placement at age 14 or older.

“This population of young adults tends not to have as much of a safety net as other people through no fault of their own,” Lewis said.

The county distributed $2,000 each to roughly 1,900 young people.

Human service officials had to reconnect with many people they were no longer in touch with, Lewis said, and reached out using social media, a special web site, the county’s data warehouse, and other means.

“Really anything that we could think of to get the word out to people and really relied on our networks of young adults who we are so connected to and might know other young people. So, word spread quickly through by word of mouth, especially once people started to get paid,” Lewis said.

In addition to distributing the funds, the program aimed to also connect anyone who was struggling to other available resources, and to learn about how the money assisted people and see if such a program would be feasible again in the future.

The top uses of the money were bills, housing, car expenses, food, and clothing, Lewis said.

“So that suggests that when we give people cash in these situations, they really will spend the money on their basic needs,” she said.

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.