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March 2018

FAFSA deadline approaching

April 15 is the last day students can file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The FAFSA helps colleges determine a student’s eligibility for state and federal financial aid and need-based scholarships. Many Hoosiers lose the opportunity to receive financial aid every year by missing this important filing deadline.

Students not interested in pursuing a four-year degree at a college or university can still receive financial aid for work-based training. By filing the FAFSA, students could receive a Workforce Ready Grant, a new grant offered to high school students entering the workforce after graduation. This program allows high school graduates who are 18 years and older to receive tuition-free training to prepare them for high-demand, high-wage jobs.

Regardless of income level, every student should file a FAFSA each year.

The easiest way to file the FAFSA is online at FAFSA.gov. For more information, click here.

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Preparing for severe weather season

Severe weather can happen at any time throughout the year. As Indiana moves into warmer months, thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes are more likely to occur. It’s important to be prepared in case of a disaster. With March 18-24 recognized as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Indiana, you should consider working on a plan to keep you and your family safe.

The best way to prepare for harsh weather is by creating a plan for you and your family. The first step is discussing how your family will receive emergency alerts, where you will take shelter, how you will evacuate and how the household will communicate with each other and outside caregivers. Your plan should be written down and made available to every family member. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has an emergency plan you can fill out or use as a guide. Finally, it is vital that you and your household understand and practice your plan.

The American Red Cross also recommends having an emergency preparedness kit. You can find a pre-made kit here or you can prepare one yourself. A basic kit should include:

  • Food and water for three days;
  • Flashlights and extra batteries;
  • First aid kit and any necessary medications;
  • Battery-powered weather radio;
  • Multi-purpose tool;
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items;
  • Whistle to signal for help; and
  • Cell phone charger and a backup battery.

The National Weather Service issues weather advisories to alert Hoosiers of weather conditions nearby. A watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather, and you should have a plan prepared. A warning means severe weather is likely to occur soon, and you should take action and get to a safe place.

It’s important to be prepared for all types of weather. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security offers resources to help Hoosiers learn more about flooding, lightning, thunderstorms and tornadoes.

For more tips, click here.

2018 Legislative Goals Met

House Republicans successfully advanced their top priorities before the legislative session concluded late Wednesday.

Lawmakers passed legislation providing a funding boost for K-12 schools, strengthening Indiana’s workforce, attacking the opioid epidemic and increasing government efficiency.

Legislation providing an increase in funding for K-12 schools would account for a higher than expected increase in enrollment at traditional public schools. This increase would be in addition to the $7 billion Indiana spends on K-12 education annually.

Currently, $1 billion is being spent on 30 workforce programs annually across nine state agencies. However, Indiana’s workforce shortage continues to persist. Legislation would re-evaluate workforce-related programs using return-on-investment metrics enacted in 2017. The bill would also match Career and Technical Education students with local businesses and encourage students to complete training in high-demand fields. The legislation also doubled the funding for workforce training grants to better connect Hoosier workers with high-demand, high-wage jobs.

House Republicans passed two pieces of legislation to help combat the growing opioid epidemic by expanding substance abuse and treatment options, and streamlining licensure and credentialing for mental health professionals. Nine additional opioid rehabilitation centers around the state will be established to ensure no Hoosier is further than an hour-long drive from treatment. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, there was a 52-percent increase in opioid deaths from 2015 to 2016.

To further reduce government bureaucracy, House Republicans passed two bills in order to streamline local and state government operations and reporting requirements.

On My Way Pre-K

Giving kids a solid foundation for learning has been shown to help close an achievement gap that is often seen in students who do not attend pre-K or similar early learning programs. Indiana’s early learning pilot program, On My Way Pre-K, is currently accepting applications from eligible families for the upcoming school year.

On My Way Pre-K provides grants to 4-year-olds from low-income families to attend a high-quality pre-K program. Eligible families must live in one of the 20 pilot counties (Allen, Bartholomew, DeKalb, Delaware, Elkhart, Floyd, Grant, Harrison, Howard, Jackson, Kosciusko, Lake, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh and Vigo counties), and meet the following requirements:

  • Child must be 4 years old but not yet 5 years old by August 2018;
  • Child must be a resident of Indiana;
  • Child must start kindergarten in the 2019–2020 school year;
  • Parents/guardians in the household must be working, going to school or attending job training; and
  • Families must have an income below 127 percent of the federal poverty level.

Providing young Hoosiers with more, early education opportunities can jump start their academic careers and set them on a path for a successful future. Families will be notified to set up an appointment to verify their eligibility and complete the grant process with their local intake beginning in April 2018. Recipients will also choose an approved On My Way Pre-K program from various locations, which can be found here.

Grants will be awarded until all the available slots are filled, so be sure to apply early!

Helping foster children, families

More than 20,000 Hoosier children are in the foster care system. House legislators are working hard to ensure students in foster care better succeed in school and foster parents’ rights are protected.

Proposed legislation would provide a critical step in meeting the needs of Hoosier students in foster care. Currently, nearly 56 percent of children in foster care graduate from high school, and only three percent graduate from college. By having the Department of Education, DCS and the State Board of Education work together on reporting the educational outcomes for youth in foster care, we can find ways to improve Indiana’s graduation rates and provide necessary support to children in the foster care system.

Another proposal would provide foster parents a stronger voice by establishing a foster parent bill of rights. Under this legislation, the Department of Child Services would form a working group of current foster parents, child-placing agencies and other organizations or individuals that have expertise in foster care services. This group would develop and update rights and responsibilities of foster parents. This document would be available to the public online and distributed to current and prospective foster parents. This bill would give foster parents the voice they need to make decisions on the behalf of children placed in their care and hopefully encourage more participation in the foster care system.

As the demand for foster families in Indiana reaches an all-time high, House lawmakers worked to raise awareness and support foster families. The Indiana House of Representatives partnered with the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy and its Institute for Excellence, a nonprofit organization serving more than 4,600 Hoosier children every day, to host “Bags of Hope”. House lawmakers and staff held a donation drive at the Statehouse and collected over 3,800 items for foster families caring for newborns and infants. Together with IARCA, more than 100 diaper bags were filled to be distributed to local foster families.

To learn more about this partnership and ways to help, visit www.FosterHopeIndiana.org.

To track legislation as it moves to the governor’s desk for consideration as new laws, click here.

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