Nearly 800 young Minnesotans who aged out of the foster care system during the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for financial assistance.

Typically, foster children lose benefits when they turn 18 or 21, if certain eligibility requirements are met.

In early March, Minnesota state officials issued a moratorium on youth losing foster care eligibility through September, in response to federal legislation passed in December.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services estimates that 770 youth who have aged out or are close to it would be eligible for assistance with food and housing costs, college educational expenses, behavioral health needs and driver's license assistance. Monthly benefits start at $964, with an average of $1,100.

County and tribal social service agencies, which manage foster care cases, will attempt to locate those who have lost eligibility. DHS also encourages those who lost eligibility to contact local agencies where they last received benefits.

Minnesota child welfare advocates have been urging Minnesota officials to issue a moratorium on aging out since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, following the lead of states including California and Ohio.

"Other states did a moratorium last year," said Hoang Murphy, executive director of St. Paul-based Foster Advocates. "This is the right thing to do for children who are essentially wards of the state."

DHS said in a statement Thursday that it was waiting for federal guidance, but it did relax employment and education requirements for youth over age 17 to receive extended foster care services.

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192

Twitter: @GlennHowatt