2021 General Assembly Results: Early Childhood
We are pleased to have so many partners around the state concerned with the well-being of young children and families. The 2021 General Assembly Session and 2020 Special Session produced positive results for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers across Virginia that will begin to touch lives very soon. Here is a reminder of some of the new initiatives coming on-line to support families with young children:
Improved Prenatal Health Care Benefits, Particularly for Women of Color
- 12 months of postpartum health coverage for economically disadvantaged mothers enrolled in Medicaid/FAMIS. This change will help ensure pregnant women can obtain health and mental health services longer than 60 days postpartum. This strategy was recommended to improve birth outcomes and reduce maternal death, particularly among Black moms. *Coming Fall 2021*
- Prenatal health care coverage for economically disadvantaged mothers who are undocumented immigrants. Currently Medicaid will only cover delivery services for undocumented mothers and not preventative prenatal care. *Summer/Fall 2021*
- A Medicaid-funded doula benefit for eligible moms to obtain doula care during pregnancy, delivery and post-partum follow-up. Doula care is a recommended strategy to improve birth outcomes and reduce maternal death among Black mothers. *July 1, 2021*
- The General Assembly directed the state Medicaid agency to continue planning for a Medicaid-funded home visiting benefit. *In the future*
Increased Eligibility for Cash Assistance and Affording Child Care
- HB2206 increases income eligibility for child care assistance to $89,000 for a family of four and allows families to be eligible when looking for work. Currently, the enhanced eligibility will be in effect through July 31, 2021. The bill also eliminates the child support enforcement requirement permanently. The value of assistance depends on locality, age of child and type of provider but it is a significant cash value. For example, a family in Henrico County with an infant would receive about $1,000 per month for full-time care. Interested families must apply through their local DSS or the CommonHelp portal and must enroll at an approved subsidy vendor or encourage their child care provider to become approved. *Begins ASAP, when signed by Governor Northam*
- Broad-based categorical eligibility for SNAP/TANF increases income limits and eliminates the “asset test” (when families have more than $2,500 in savings). The General Assembly also approved a 10% increase in TANF eligibility and cash assistance. *July 1, 2021*
Stabilizing the Child Care Sector & Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce
The child care sector has been disrupted by COVID-19 with many providers struggling to keep their doors open. As of March 1st, one quarter of child care providers remain closed. SB1316 from Senator Jennifer McClellan directs the state to create a pilot program using state/federal child care funds to pay for child care through grants and contracts, or enrollment, and to evaluate measures that afford the true costs of higher quality including higher wages and wraparound services.
The final budget includes $5 million in early educator incentive grants to help increase wages by providing a $1,500 incentive for early educators in publicly funded programs.
Enhancing the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI)
The 2020 Special Session and 2021 GA Session approved $48 million in enhancements to the Virginia Preschool Initiative beginning July 2021 including:
- Increasing the per pupil rate to $7,655
- Allowing for larger class sizes
- Incentivizing mixed-delivery partnerships with private child care
- Flexibility to move preschool funding between school divisions
- A pilot to enroll income eligible three-year-olds
Addressing Young Children’s Mental Health Needs
The General Assembly directed the Department of Education to have the “green light” to move forward with implementing plans for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation to meet the social-emotional needs of young children and to report back to the General Assembly about any additional funding needs or legislative changes.
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