Senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) announces that Senate Bill 546 (SB 546), which provides “LifeLine” phones to foster youth, recently passed out of the Senate Human Services Committee with unanimous support. This bill extends the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) “iFoster Pilot Program,” which currently provides California’s foster youth with smartphones and free voice, text, and data.
“The Senate Human Services Committee agreed that now is not the time for the State to take phones away from foster youth,” said Wilk. “Cell phone ownership is often times a lifeline for foster youth during normal times, and the events of last year underscored how important it is to continue the availability of these resources.”
The CEO and co-founder of iFoster, Serita Cox, provided expert testimony on the need for this legislation during the hearing. According to Cox, “The iFoster Phones for Foster Youth pilot program is literally a lifeline for our foster youth, keeping them safe and connected to their support networks, telehealth, school and employment. SB 546 ensures that the program continues without any gaps, which would be detrimental to the thousands of young people in foster care who rely on this service to achieve their potential.”
SB 546 provides foster youth between the ages of 13 and 26 with continued access to the benefits of the CPUC’s LifeLine program. The California LifeLine Program provides discounted home phones and cell phone services for eligible individuals. It is necessary for the iFoster program to continue, as foster youth need the services that it provides. This bill would continue to supply foster youth with smartphones, and would take effect immediately upon becoming law, to 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 previously passed out of Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee on a 14-0 vote.
SB 546 will be heard next in the Senate Appropriations Committee.