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STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN MICHAEL E. CAPUANO ON THE INTRODUCTION OF THE LEGACY ACT: LIVING EQUITABLY, GRANDPARENTS AIDING CHILDREN & YOUTH

Mr. Speaker: I am pleased today to join my good friend Connie Morella in introducing important legislation to help address an issue in our nation that is only starting to receive national attention -- grandparents raising their grandchildren.

According to recent data from the Census Bureau, the number of intergenerational families increased more than fifty percent between 1990 and 1998. It is estimated that more than 4 million children across America are being raised by their grandparents. Many of these children have parents who have passed away, are in prison, or are suffering from drug or alcohol addictions, while some have been taken out of abusive homes.

These intergenerational families or "Grandfamilies" live in rural areas, inner cities and suburbs. They come from all races and ethnicities, and live in every state in the nation. Many of these grandparents survive on fixed incomes -- social security, a small pension -- and face not only the rising cost of prescription drugs, but also the cost of diapers, baby formula, toys, and school clothes.

Unfortunately, our nation’s housing policy has not kept up with the unique needs of these families. There is currently only one housing development in the entire country specifically designed for intergenerational families -- the Grandfamilies House in Boston, Massachusetts. The House offers apartments with special features for both grandparents and children, including childproof kitchen cabinets and handicapped-accessible bathrooms. There are also activities for seniors and children, an outdoor playground and an on-site computer lab.

I am introducing the LEGACY Act in response to the growing number of communities throughout the nation that have been working to build on the model of the Grandfamilies House in Boston. The title of the legislation was inspired by an Academy-Award® nominated documentary film chronicling the life of a grandmother raising her grandchildren and their struggle to move out of a Chicago housing project.

The legislation creates demonstration programs through both the Section 8 Housing Certificate Fund and the Section 202 Elderly Housing program. These demonstration projects will enable housing developers and advocacy groups additional flexibility in securing financing for this housing and providing ongoing services to intergenerational families.

In addition, the LEGACY Act clarifies that grandparents raising their grandchildren are eligible for family unification assistance, allows access to fair housing funds for education and outreach efforts about the legal issues surrounding many of these families. It also directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide specialized training for their employees focused on grandparent- and other relative-headed families. Many grandparents do not have access to the services they and their grandchildren need. These training and outreach efforts will help raise the awareness of the unique issues these families face each day.

While this bill is a small step in recognizing the tremendous contributions of these grandparents, it is my hope that it will help bring this issue greater recognition. Affordable housing is only one of the many challenges these courageous grandparents face as they raise the next generation of Americans. Please join me in supporting these families by supporting the LEGACY Act.

Thank you.

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