After learning of the budget shortfall, and discussion of some significant cuts, at the money committee retreats in the fall, we were pleased to see the House and Senate budget conference reports did not include those significant cuts, or in fact, any cuts for kids. However, while most issues were spared, neither budget included any expansion or significant new initiatives beyond the Governor’s proposed budget and primarily made small tweaks and other language changes.
There are a couple of newer initiatives worth highlighting below. Please also read our blog post highlighting the efforts to transform the mental health system and the impact on children.
Collecting data on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome– $52,000 GF The House has included a small sum to support HB 1467 seeking to collect data on the occurrence of NAS so that we might be able to gather better data on the prevalence of substance exposed newborns in the Commonweath.
Perinatal Quality Collaborative– $124,470 GF & $82,980 NGF to establish and administer a Perinatal Quality Collaborative. The Collaborative shall “work to improve pregnancy outcomes for women and newborns by advancing evidence-based clinical practices and processes through continuous quality improvement”. Voices supports improving these practices and would like to see community-based supports outside a clinical setting included in the discussion.
Read more about bills to address some of the issues of children and the opioid epidemic here.
Kinship Guardianship Assistance– $44,637 GF The Senate included companion funding for SB879 establishing the Kinship Guardian Assistance Program (KinGAP). KinGAP is funding to facilitate child placements with relatives and ensure permanency for children for whom adoption or being returned home are not appropriate permanency options. The bill contains details regarding eligibility criteria, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements.
Read more about this effort and other foster care initiatives on our blog.
In keeping with previous years, the House and Senate have including varying proposals for uses of unspent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. As caseloads have decreased the unspent TANF balance has increased. The funds must be used for the purposes of TANF: to provide cash assistance to low-income families; to provide training and employment opportunities; to reduce out-of-wedlock births; and to support two-parent families. The key differences beyond the Governor’s budget proposal, using additional unspent TANF funds, are:
House Budget Proposals– leaves an unspent TANF balance of $55,000,000
|Remove Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) pilot||-$6,000,000 NGF|
|Modify locality groupings– combining Groups I & II for modest cash assistance increase.||$2,500,000 NGF|
|Increase TANF cash benefits by 2.5%– the 2nd small increase to the cash benefit since 1995.||$2,005,343 NGF|
|Child Support Supplement– A small supplement to what is collected by DCSE as child support||$4,800,000 NGF|
|Community Wealth Building and Employment & Training Grants– competitive grants to local employment & training and anti-poverty programs; would ask DSS to administer new grant program||$10,000,000 NGF|
Senate Budget Proposals
|Remove Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) pilot||-$3,000,000 NGF|
|Modify locality groupings– modifies how some of the localities in Group I & II are aligned.||$2,500,000 NGF|
|TANF/VIEW extension of transitional services– Allows for TANF/VIEW participants enrolled in a post-secondary education program to maintain transitional benefits for child care and support services from 12 months to 24 months.||$1,614,233 NGF|
As you can see from the comparison, the House and Senate have both included some reduction to the LARC pilot and modifying the locality groupings. The House includes several new initiatives for unspent TANF funds that are not included on the Senate side. The budget conferees will need to work out the differences. Voices served on the workgroup looking at the uses of TANF this summer that included recommendations to modify the locality groupings and extend the time period for TANF/VIEW transitional services.Read More Blog Posts