With a significant revenue shortfall we were anticipating a budget proposal from Governor McAuliffe that could have reduced access to children’s services. We were pleased that Governor’s budget announcement on Wednesday did not include any significant set-backs for kids. However given the difficult budget climate, and more items on our wish list, we must push forward to ensure that kids are a priority in the final budget.
We need you to speak up for children. Read more about Voices’ policy agenda- download here: 2015 Voices Legislative Agenda.
Governor McAuliffe presents his budget to the House and Senate money committees
Children’s Mental Health
We are pleased that funding for community-based children’s mental health services were preserved. But we know that additional funding is necessary to create additional capacity that would allow more children to receive needed mental health services.
The Governor proposed adding $2.7 million for additional licensing inspection staff for the 1,920 child care providers that accept subsidy funds and do not have a license. He also proposed some budget language to redirect unused VPI dollars to divisions using their full allocation. Other funding for early childhood programs remains level.
Virginia Preschool Initiative– Each year a small portion of the allocated funds are returned and go unused (typically in the range of $1-3 million). This language would enable the 43 school divisions that use all of their allocations and have waiting lists to access some of those unused funds for children on their division’s waiting list.
Child Care– It was big talking point in the media in the Governor’s budget announcement included $2.7 million in additional funding for child care licensing inspectors. This proposal would impact the 1,920 providers accepting child care subsidy that currently do not receive annual safety inspections.
These proposals are a good start on the priorities of the Early Childhood Policy Network Unified Agenda but there is still work to do to build the path to prosperity. If you would like to learn more about the Early Childhood Unified Policy Agenda and how to take action join us on a conference call on Friday, December 19th at noon– sign up here.
We are thrilled to see that Governor McAuliffe included money in his budget to fully fund Virginia’s share of a federal program to extend foster care services and adoption assistance for older youth up to age 21. Virginia still struggles–more than any other state–to achieve permanency for youth in foster care before they “age out” of the system, facing high risk of homelessness, unemployment, poor health and possible involvement in the criminal justice system. This transition program will provide critical foundational supports to make sure that age 18 is a bridge to adulthood for these youth and not a cliff. Most importantly, this effort will include housing and lessen the chance that youth will have to forgo pursuing their education because of financial struggles.
Health Care Coverage
Gov McAuliffe revisited his proposal to close the coverage gap for the 195,000 uninsured Virginians. A quarter of the uninsured are parents. Progress on this issue would mean healthy parents who are better able to meet their children’s needs.
Next Steps and Budget Hearings
When the General Assembly convenes on January 14th they will consider Governor McAuliffe’s budget recommendations and reconcile this proposal with their priorities. We need your help to speak up for children. Join us at one of the regional budget hearings to support the issues on Voices’ policy agenda.
Regional Budget Hearings- Wednesday, January 7th
Manassas (10 AM)- George Mason University, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Gregory Family Theater
Abingdon (10 AM)- Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center
Williamsburg (noon)- College of William & Mary, School of Education, Professional Development Center
Martinsville (noon)- New College Institute, Building on Baldwin
Richmond (noon)- General Assembly Building, House Room D
To speak to foster care issues contact Amy@vakids.org; early childhood contact Emily@vakids.org and health care and mental health contact Ashley@vakids.org
For a refresher on the legislative and budget process review our Advocacy Guide.Read More Blog Posts