The 2021 General Assembly is coming to a close with good news for children and families. While the last year has produced tremendous disruptions and up and downs for families, the revenue picture in Virginia is in better shape than expected and lawmakers were able to restore many initiatives that were unallocated last year and identify new ways to repair systems to provide a more equitable foundation.
Our issue specific blog posts will include more details on the full budget package next week. Below are some of the highlights state legislators are proposing to go above and beyond the Governor’s introduced budget. Most changes included below would go into effect July 1, 2021.
Health Care Access and Prenatal Care:
Providing health care coverage prenatally for pregnant women who are immigrants. Funding is included in the budget to direct Virginia to provide Medicaid/FAMIS coverage for low-income pregnant women who are immigrants. Currently, this population only receives coverage for the birth and delivery, not comprehensive prenatal coverage.
Funding and training for doula care for eligible pregnant women.
Language directing the state to begin exploring the costs and benefits of providing health care coverage for all immigrant children.
Directing the state to develop a plan for a Medicaid benefit for home visiting.
Children’s Mental Health:
Restoring $1.6 million to expand the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program. This initiative is critical to incentivize more clinicians to enter the field and to diversify the workforce.
Language directing DOE to begin implementing the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program and report on additional legislative or regulatory changes needed.
Pre-K–12 Education and Education Equity:
Increasing the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) per pupil amount to $7,655 as introduced in the Governor’s budget to reflect per pupil costs for high quality instruction. VPI has historically underfunded the cost to provide high quality early education for disadvantaged students.
Including $49 million to hire additional student support staff such as social workers, nurses and psychologists and funding in the introduced budget for additional school counselors.
Family Economic Security:
Increasing the TANF Standards of Assistance by 10%, including both eligibility and cash assistance payments.
Including $2.1 million TANF funded Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) so that TANF-eligible individuals may save funds in an individual development account established for the purposes of home purchase, education, starting a business, transportation, or other needs.
Including an additional $2 million for the Virginia Food Access Investment Program. This program will decrease food deserts in rural and urban communities through retail investments.
$6.9 million in funding for paid sick leave for personal care attendants. We are disappointed that a larger population was not considered but recognize this as a first step in ensuring frontline workers have access to paid time off.
Restoring $143,000 to implement the ACEs Interface training initiative. This also supports a full-time Central Office position to provide oversight over 100 ACE Interface Master Trainers and facilitate additional training.
Extended payments for those aging out of Fostering Futures. Adds language to extend payments to children aging out of the Fostering Futures program through September 2021.
Casework Salary Increases Restores $2.2 million for local social services departments’ (LDSS) to increase minimum salary levels for LDSS family services by 20 percent.
Created State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program to facilitate child placements with relatives, including fictive kin, and ensure permanency for children. The bill sets forth eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements.