Voices’ Blog

Investing in Strong and Stable Families During the 2024 Legislative Session

Posted:  -  By: Emily Moore

All families in Virginia deserve the opportunity to thrive, and the cornerstone of vibrant youth and adolescence is economic security. Communities should be well-resourced, having access to good schools, affordable housing and transportation, physical and mental health care, and nutritious and culturally relevant food. But centuries of policies—which were created to benefit wealthy and white residents—have perpetuated systemic racism, inequitable educational systems, and discrimination in the labor market, creating stark racial and ethnic disparities in economic stability.  

As demonstrated by the 2023 KIDS COUNT Data Virginia Profile, Black children and Latino children are more likely to live in poverty than white children. This puts inequitable barriers in the lives of young people and hinders their ability to become the prosperous adults they dream to be. 

During the 2024 legislative session, Virginia lawmakers must acknowledge that child poverty is a policy choice and take action to improve the lives of Virginia’s families and young people. Below are a few policies that Virginia can adopt and implement to help families make ends meet:  

  • Paid Sick Days and Paid Family Medical Leave  
  • Family-focused tax credits, like the state-level Child Tax Credit and fully refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit 
  • Increased access to healthy and nutritious food through SNAP and WIC, Food is Medicine programs, and free school meals for all 

Economic Security 

Virginia families are feeling the impact of inflation, the rising costs of utilities, food, and household necessities, and the loss of pandemic-era supports, such as the expanded federal Child Tax Credit, expanded SNAP benefits, and continuous health care coverage through Medicaid. According to the most recent Census Household Pulse Survey

  • 64% of Virginia families with children indicated that they had some level of difficulty paying for their usual household expenses in the past week. 
  • 23% of Virginia families with children sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat. 
  • 50% of Virginia families with children reported feeling very stressed by the increase in prices in the last two months. 

Economic stability not only influences the ability to feed and house your family but also determines the level of autonomy families have in their lives. When families are given direct cash resources and financial support, it supports them in making ends meet, saving for emergencies, paying off debt, education and training, and college savings for their children. Giving cash directly to families empowers parents and caregivers to invest in their children as they see fit and avoids the paternalistic nature of some public benefit programs. It demonstrates trust in families and doesn’t require them to prove that they will be “responsible” with their money.  

Families should also be able to take time off work to care for a sick loved one, be with a newborn child, or care for their own medical needs without having to worry if they will be able to pay for necessities. But roughly 76% of working Virginians—especially women—are unable to do this, which is why this legislative session lawmakers must invest in programs that provide financial security. Having financial security means families can spend more time with their children and less time away from home working multiple jobs. 

Budget Amendments 

  • Item 357.10 #1h (Delegate Sewell) | Item 356 #4s (Senator Boysko) | Dept. of Labor, Virginia Employment Commission | Language Only  
    • HB 737 & SB 373 – Requires the Virginia Employment Commission to establish and administer a Paid Family and Medical Leave program with benefits beginning January 1, 2027. Funding for the program is provided through premiums assessed to employers and employees beginning in 2026. 
  • Item 349 #3h (Delegate Ward) | Dept. of Labor and Industry | FY25: $250,000; FY26: $250,000  
    • HB 348 – Provides funding to enforce and monitor a Paid Sick Leave program. 
  • Item 471 #5h (Delegate Ward) | Central Appropriations | FY25: $25 million; FY26: $25 million  
    • HB 1 – Provides funding to raise the minimum wage in Virginia. The provisions of this bill will impact state employees, state-supported local personnel, and health care providers compensated through the state’s Medicaid program. 
  • Item 102 #1h (Delegate Coyner) | Item 102 #3s (Senator Hashmi) | Dept. of Housing and Community Development | FY25: $52 million; FY26: $48 million 
    • Establishes the 5000 Families Program, which will provide monthly rental assistance to low-income families with school-aged children. Eligible households will receive a monthly rental voucher in an amount sufficient to allow the family to pay only 30 percent of their monthly income for housing.  

Tax Fairness 

According to ITEP’s Tax Inequality Index, Virginia has the 37th most regressive state and local tax system in the country, with the wealthiest paying the least taxes as a share of their income. The current tax proposal from the Governor to lower Virginia’s income tax brackets and increase the state sales tax does very little for families with low- and middle-incomes, and largely benefits the wealthy.

The Governor’s tax package also proposes increasing the non-refundable option of the Earned Income Tax Credit from 20% to 25%, but very few households will see any help from this change. Tax credits are most effective for supporting working families when the credits are refundable, allowing families access to the full value of their credit via a cash refund. Refundability is important because it expands eligibility to households with low and moderate incomes who are left behind by non-refundable credits.  

Few tax policies are conditional on providing for the needs of children or ensuring that refunds and credits are distributed based on the number of children in a home. There are proven solutions that can make an impact today and long-term—specifically, establishing a state-level Child Tax Credit (CTC) and expanding the refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 20% of the federal credit.  

With the expanded federal Child Tax Credit, families were able to choose how to use the money to meet their needs. More than half of Virginia families reported using the expanded CTC for food, followed by one-third who used the money to pay bills. Financial hardship creates parental stress, mental health concerns, and family instability, but family-focused policy can help impact every one of those aspects of child wellbeing by expanding tax credits and economic security for families. 

Governor’s Budget Items 

  • OPPOSE | Reduce Income Tax Rates by 12%

    • Virginia’s tax code is already upside down and this proposal furthers that gap. 
    • This proposal would reduce Tax Revenue by $1.1 billion in FY25 and $2.3 billion in FY26. 
  • OPPOSE | Increase Sales Tax by 0.9% (from 4.3% to 5.2%) 
    • Directly impacts families with lower incomes, who spend a larger portion of their income on essentials. 
  • OPPOSE | Expand non-refundable EITC to 25% of Federal Credit 
    • A nonrefundable credit — the credit amount can only count towards income tax liability and may not exceed it — means that many working low-income families who qualify for the credit will be unable to access the full benefit due to having low- or no-income tax liabilities. 

Budget Amendments 

  • Item 0 #17s (Senator Aird) | Revenues  
    • A Child Tax Credit that is a refundable $500 credit per child under the age of 18 for Virginia households making up to $100,000 adjusted gross income.  
    • This amendment reduces general fund revenue by $627.0 million for a state Child Tax Credit as a placeholder, pursuant to legislation authorized by the 2024 General Assembly. 
  • Item 258 #1s (Senator Aird) | Dept. of Taxation | FY25: $299,356 | 1 FTE; FY26: $73,331 | 1 FTE 
    • Funding to support implementation of a state Child Tax Credit and to hire one additional FTE to manage administration of the credit. 
  • Item 0 #5s (Senator Rouse) | Revenues  
    • Earned Income Tax Credit allowing eligible low-income taxpayers to claim a refundable income tax credit equal to 20 percent of the federal earned income tax credit. 
    • This amendment reduces the general fund based on a preliminary estimate of $36.5 million the first year and $35.5 million the second year.  
  • Item 331 #2h (Delegate Coyner) | Item 331 #3h (Delegate Carr) | Item 331 #4h (Delegate Hernandez) | DSS | FY25: $750,000; FY26: $750,000  
    • Provides funding for the Virginia Community Action Partnership contract to manage the statewide “Virginia CASH Campaign,” the state supported Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program providing outreach, education, and tax preparation services for Virginians who may be eligible for both the federal and new state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Food and Nutrition Access 

Food security is deeply connected to economic stability and community. Inequities in the food system create disparities in access to fresh, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods and increase the disproportionate prevalence of diet-related illnesses. Between 2020-2022, 11.7% of children in Virginia experienced food insecurity. In 2023, Virginia food banks reported a 5-10% increase in demand at pantries compared to the end of 2022. 

In the past several years, Virginia has: Eliminated the reduced-price school meals category; Implemented Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility for SNAP benefits; Created the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund; and allocated state funding for Virginia Fresh Match. This legislative session, Virginia can continue to build on our legislative progress by creating a universal school meals program and making additional budget investments.

Food security does not exist in a silo. It is dependent upon opportunities for economic security, collaboration with health care systems, robust food and nutrition programs, and a vibrant, affordable, and accessible food system.  

Governor’s Budget Items  

  • SUPPORT | Fund administration for the summer EBT program
    • VDSS | $5.4 million across the biennium | 1 FTE 

Budget Amendments 

  • Item 288 #64h (Delegate Rasoul) | Item 288 #22s (Senator Locke) | DMAS  
    • Item 288 #64h – FY25: $419,323 GF / $419,323 NGF | 1 FTE; FY26: $169,323 GF / $169,323 NGF | 1 FTE
    • Item 228 #22s – Language only
    • Directs the Department of Medical Assistance Services to conduct a feasibility assessment for amending its existing §1115 waiver and the Commonwealth Coordinated Care Plus §1915(c) waiver to include coverage of food as a benefit for Medicaid enrollees.
  • Item 125 #8h (Delegate Bennett-Parker) | Item 125 #29s (Senator Roem) | Direct Aid to Public Education | FY25: $173 million; FY26: $173 million 
    • HB 686 & SB 283 – Funding to provide free school breakfast and lunch to children enrolled in public schools.  
  • Item 132 #17h (Delegate Simonds) | Item 132 #6s (Senator Roem) | State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) | FY25: $625,000; FY26: $625,000
    • HB 207 & SB 318 – Funding to establish the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program to address student food insecurity at public institutions of higher education. 
  • Item 120 #3h (Delegate Cousins) | Item 117 #6s (Senator Roem) | DOE | FY25: $60,000; FY26: $60,000
    • Expands work related to farm-to-school food via the Farm-to-School Program Task Force, particularly in relation to experiential student learning opportunities. 

View Voices’ Bill Tracker to keep up with Economic Security bills that we are supporting and monitoring: https://vakids.org/our-news/blog/voices-for-virginias-children-2024-legislative-agenda

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