California Senate Bill 546, a measure to extend the state’s “iFoster” cell phones and data program for foster youth, has passed out of the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee with unanimous support, according to Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita).
Co-authored by Wilk, who represents the state’s 21st Senate District, and 36th District Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Antelope Valley), SB 546 would extend the California Public Utilities Commission’s “iFoster Pilot Program” indefinitely. The program currently provides California’s foster youth with smartphones and free voice, text, and data.
“The ‘iFoster Pilot Program’ has changed lives,” Wilk said. “The Los Angeles County portion of my district is home to one-third of the foster youth in the county, and so I am well aware of the need for this program to continue.
“Cell phone ownership empowers foster youth to succeed in school, find stable employment, connect with their support networks, make telehealth appointments, and contact emergency services,” Wilk said.
“These benefits are now more crucial than ever, as the pandemic continues to disproportionally impact foster youth, as they are asked to do more, with fewer resources, and less support,” he said. “Given the responsibility of the state to provide for its foster youth, and the fact that this pilot program ends in a few short months, the legislature must take action to ensure that foster youth have continued access to these invaluable resources.”
SB 546 would extend eligibility for California’s LifeLine program to thousands of foster youth between the ages of 13 and 26 currently living in California by codifying the iFoster Pilot Program.
The California LifeLine Program provides discounted home phones and cell phone services for eligible individuals.
SB 546 will take effect upon becoming law, and prevent participating foster youth from experiencing a gap in service between the end of the pilot program and the implementation of this bill.
SB 546 will be heard next in the Senate Committee on Human Services.