California State Senator for District 9 Nancy Skinner speaks about the rising omicron variant cases in California at Native American Health Center in Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 22, 2021. (Harika Maddala/ Bay City News)

Low-income California children would get up to $5,000 if they lost a parent to COVID-19 under legislation that state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, plans to introduce in January.

The Hope for Children Act would create savings accounts with up to $3,000 for children as old as 9 and up to $5,000 for children 10 to 17 years old. Also, children ineligible for federal survivor benefits would receive survivor support through a program called CalHope, which would be established by Skinner’s legislation.

Children would be eligible for a savings account, called a Hope Savings Account, if they lost a parent or a primary caregiver to COVID-19.

Skinner’s bill would also require the state’s Health and Human Services Agency to report on the cost and the authority needed to provide similar savings accounts to children who are long-term wards of California’s foster care program and others disproportionately affected by poverty.

“The Hope for Children Act will offer a more secure future to children who lost their parents to this deadly pandemic,” said Skinner, who is chair of the Senate Budget Committee, in a statement.

“Children who are long-term wards of California’s foster care system and others disproportionately impacted by extreme poverty also face uncertain futures, so the act creates the possibility of Hope Accounts for these children,” Skinner said.

An estimated 20,000 children in California lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19, according to Skinner’s office.

Nationwide, that number may be more than 140,000 and 65 percent of those may be from racial and ethnic minority households, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. Many who died were low-wage workers, according to the senator’s office.

Savings accounts for children like the Hope Savings Account aim to promote social and economic well-being. According to Skinner’s office, they are a “hopeful new policy.”

The CalHope program would provide state-funded monthly benefits to children who had a parent die without documenting enough federal work credits for federal survivor benefits.

According to Skinner’s office, for several reasons parents and caregivers may not have logged enough work credits with the federal government for their children to be eligible for federal survivor benefits.

The parent may have been undocumented, incarcerated, and among other reasons, pushed out of the workforce to care for their child.

“The Hope for Children Act is the first of its kind that seeks to provide support to children who must now fill the role of their parental figures to meet their basic needs,” Shimica Gaskins, president and CEO of Grace – End Child Poverty in CA, said in a statement.

“The trust accounts, modeled after ‘baby bonds,’ will ensure that these children have financial resources when they are transitioning into adulthood and will create the opportunity for California to support foster children and other children disproportionately impacted by poverty in the future,” Gaskins said. “The CalHope program will also provide survivor benefits so that burden is lifted.”

Elena Chavez Quezada, chief impact officer for End Poverty in California, added in statement, “The Hope for Children Act provides critical financial support to those who have suffered the most in this pandemic: children who have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19.”

“The bill sets the foundation for trust accounts that grow over time and give vulnerable young people a financial jumpstart at age 18 — one that can disrupt cycles of intergenerational poverty and help close the racial wealth gap,” Quezada said.

Skinner added, “At a time when California has immense wealth, we can afford to ensure that children who have suffered an inconceivable loss will be comforted knowing they’ll have a little help at a time when they no longer have parents to rely on.”