Capitol Update: What the co-chairs’ budget means for kids and families

Yesterday, Senator Richard Devlin and Representative Peter Buckley, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, released a budget responding to and revising the Governor’s proposed budget for the next two years. While the new version still lacks many specifics, omissions and proposed funding levels fail to fully address the needs of children and working families.

As lawmakers begin to negotiate the details, we will continue our efforts to protect funding for programs that keep kids safe and strengthen families until the budget is finalized this summer.

In the meantime, here’s a look at how the new budget would impact the issues we care about most this session.

Keeping Kids Safe:

The Foster Youth Bill of Rights would not be directly impacted by the proposed budget; however, the overall financial health of the state will determine whether the minor cost of implementing the bill will prove to be a barrier in securing enough support to get it passed. If passed, the bill will ensure youth know their rights while in foster care, and will establish a safe way for them to report violations. For real-time updates, follow the Oregon Foster Youth Connection on Facebook.

While the Governor’s budget proposal, released last month, explicitly dedicated $28 million for proven programs aimed at keeping children out of foster care, the co-chairs’ budget does not specifically address funding for child welfare prevention programs. We are disappointed that the Ways and Means committee has not made this issue a priority and we urge lawmakers to invest adequate funding toward protecting children and keeping families safely together.

Strengthening Families:

Yesterday’s budget shows no additional investment to expand Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) and would leave the program capped. This means that nearly 3,000 qualifying families who need child care assistance in order to maintain employment will be turned away. Because the number of requests for ERDC represents parents entering or reentering the workforce, we want to expand this program so that all eligible families have the opportunity to work and provide their kids with safe child care arrangements. Learn more about how ERDC supports families, businesses, and the economy here.

In a big win for children experiencing poverty, the co-chairs’ budget restores funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This children’s poverty program prevents many kids from ending up homeless or in foster care. We are glad to see renewed commitment from the State for this vital support.

The co-chairs’ budget maintains the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) at the current level (and places program expansion on a short list of priorities in the event that new revenue is found). Because EITC has proven itself to be the most effective approach to keeping working families out of poverty, we will continue to educate lawmakers about the need to expand this program to help Oregon’s lowest-income kids.

For more analysis of the co-chairs’ budget, check out the latest Oregonian article.

Follow us on Facebook for up-to-the-minute developments.

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