FY '19 State Budget Adjustment
The House has passed their version of H. 97, the annual mid-year budget adjustment bill, and the Senate is in the process of approving their version. Importantly, both versions reject the Governor's proposal to take $2.5 million in "underutilization savings" from the Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) in FY19 to pay for other budget needs. Advocates had requested this move. The House would use the money for one-time grants to child care providers, while the Senate proposes to use the money for grants and other one-time CCFAP program needs. The Senate bill also includes funding to offset the costs of new water testing for lead levels that will be required for schools and child care providers. It appears the House is moving to accept the Senate proposals – we expect the bill to get final approval and be sent to the Governor for signature sometime next week. Look for more details in the coming days.
Child Care Financial Assistance Program
The House Human Services Committee is currently considering H. 194, a bill that would increase funding for the Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) by over $20 million and provide additional support for workforce development programs. Meanwhile, the Governor's Recommended FY20 Budget includes both a $1.5 million decrease for CCFAP due to underutilization, and a still-unspecified increase in funding by $7 million. Discussions of all these proposals continue in various legislative committees.
Housing & Homelessness
The Governor's Recommended FY20 Budget includes a significant cut to funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, which advocates oppose. The House Appropriations Committee is studying the proposal. At the same time, the Senate Economic Development Committee has started to work on a housing bill that could include a new housing bond and other critical investments.
Reach Up Funding
The Governor's Recommended FY20 Budget includes a continuation of the unfortunate past practice of taking "savings" from Reach Up caseload reductions to help balance the state budget. It also proposes making cuts to Reach Up case managers at Parent Child Centers. The House Appropriations and Human Services Committees are studying the proposals.
Family & Medical Leave Insurance
The House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee recently passed H. 107, a very strong version of a paid family and medical leave program that is more comprehensive than the version passed by the legislature and vetoed by the Governor last year. The bill is currently being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee.
Farm To School and Early Childhood
The Governor's Recommended FY20 Budget decreases funding for Farm to School and Early Childhood (FTSEC) compared to FY19 funding levels. Advocates continue to press for higher funding for FY20. The House Agriculture and Appropriations Committees are studying the Governor's proposal.
Children's Integrated Services
The Governor's Recommended FY20 Budget includes a $670,000 decrease in funding for Children's Integrated Services (CIS) compared to FY19, based on underutilization of potential Medicaid funding. Advocates are still working to understand the details of the proposal, which is being studied by the House Human Services and Appropriations Committees.
Meanwhile, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee recently heard a presentation by State CIS Program Director Morgan Cole, which clearly detailed the negative impacts of years of level funding that advocates have been describing – "delayed services, staffing shortages, inadequate capacity, and a crisis-driven system."
FY '20 State Budget
The Governor's Recommended FY20 Budget includes a wide range of proposals related to early childhood. Unfortunately, many of the proposals would decrease funding for critical programs. Advocates continue to work to offer a competing vision of how the state's budget should be written based on clear and compelling needs, with increased investments in essential services.
TEACH / Tax Credits
Two workforce development supports for early educators are included in H.194 – TEACH scholarships and tax credits. Both are being considered in the House Human Services Committee. The House Commerce Committee also recently heard testimony about TEACH in their efforts to understand the workforce development needs of the state.
Parent Child Centers Network Master Grant
The Governor's Recommended FY20 Budget includes a variety of cuts to programs that would have a serious, negative impact on Parent Child Centers (PCCs). Changes to the Master Grant funding are part of the budget as well. Advocates are still working to understand the details of the proposal, which is being studied by the House Human Services and Appropriations Committees.
Pre-Kindergarten / Act 166 Discussions
While there was some initial interest by the Senate Education Committee in taking an in-depth look this year at possible reforms to Act 166 (an act passed in 2014 that provides universal access to publicly funded pre-kindergarten education), a lack of consensus among key players emerged early in their deliberations. As a result, the Legislature is not expected to discuss any significant proposals to change Act 166 this legislative session.
Minimum Wage / Benefits Cliff
The Senate Economic Development Committee recently passed S. 23, a minimum wage bill that is almost identical to the bill vetoed by the Governor last year. The Alliance supports language in this version related to the Child Care Financial Assistance Program benefits cliff and the impact on market rates. A funding source for these "hold harmless" provisions has not yet been identified. The bill is being considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee this week.