In 2019, over 245,000 children in Virginia experienced poverty. However, COVID-19 further widens racial and ethnic disparities in stable employment and food security. The pandemic creates complex stressors influenced by social injustices and economic hardships. Virginia has recorded surpluses in our federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, leaving funds unspent. Despite the 15 percent increase in TANF cash assistance, the payments have not kept up with inflation. We are pleased to see an increase in TANF cash assistance reflected in both the House and Senate budgets. TANF eligibility is tied to the monthly cash assistance value therefore this proposal improves eligibility and adds more money in families’ bank accounts. In 1985, a three-person family in the City of Richmond could be eligible with net income below 48 percent of the federal poverty level. To qualify now, the family’s net income must be less than 30 percent of the federal poverty level.
Increase TANF Standards of Assistance by 18 Percent & Provide Savings for TANF Families
Voices support the Senate amendment to adds $1.4M from general funds and $15.9M from the TANF block grant to increase the standards of assistance by 18 percent. There was also additional language to direct the Department of Social Services to develop a plan to incrementally increase the standards of assistance by 18 percent annually until the standards equal 50 percent of the federal poverty level, which is estimated to take approximately 4 years. The House included only a five percent increase.
We support the Senate proposal to include $2.1M from the TANF block grant for the Department of Social Services to implement a program so that TANF-eligible individuals can save funds in an Individual Development Account (IDA), basically a savings account, for home purchases, education, starting a business, transportation, or achieve self-sufficiency. The funds would be deposited with a match rate determined by the department.
Other complimentary item(s) include:
Paid Leave for Essential Workers
Paid sick days are fully paid and may be used to care for a child or other family member recovering from an illness or who needs to be taken to an appointment. Paid family and medical leave is used for longer periods of time for pregnancy/childbirth, adoption of a child, a serious personal illness or health condition, such as cancer, or to care for a family member with a serious personal illness or health condition. This time may be partially or fully paid. 1.2 million Virginians have zero paid sick days or paid time off which amounts to 41 percent of the private-sector.
Paid Sick Leave
The House included an amendment to provide $41,055 in the second year from the general fund for the Department of Labor and Industry to enforce the provisions of House Bill 2137, which provides paid sick leave for essential workers. HB2137 is championed by Delegate Elizabeth Guzman.
HB2137 Paid Sick Leave for Personal Care Attendants
The House also included language to provide $3.3M from the general fund and $3.3M in matching federal Medicaid funds the second year to provide sick leave to medical providers, including direct personal, respite or companion care.
Funding to Support Actuarial Study on Paid Family & Medical Leave
The House included $300,000 from the general fund in the second year to support the completion of a study to assess the risks and expected tax rate and other costs for implementing a Paid Family and Medical Leave Program in Virginia. Senator Jennifer Boysko championed SB1330 and Delegate Hala Ayala championed HB2016. Both bills died prior to special session.
Virginia Food Access Program
In 2020, Delegate Delores McQuinn and Senator Jennifer McClellan championed the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund (VPAIPF). The initial ask was for $6 million for the biennium. There was $1.25M in appropriated funds, which included $250,000 for a full-time Food Access Coordinator. This year, Delegate McQuinn is championing a budget amendment Item97#1h to request an increase of $4.75M to expand the number of retailers and entrepreneurs who will provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables and SNAP incentives in underserved communities. The House included an amendment to increase first year general fund appropriation to the Virginia Food Access Program from 1.25M to 3.1M.
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