Navigating COVID-19 has been an unparalleled challenge for our families, our commonwealth, and our country. As Kentucky looks ahead to its future, there are many solutions and recovery efforts we can undertake within the commonwealth. But many other efforts require federal policy changes and federal budget investments.

As federal leaders debate the next pandemic recovery package, Kentucky kids and families are looking to Washington, D.C. for the following solutions:

Healthcare priorities for Kentucky kids and families

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act increased the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) – rates used to determine the federal matching funds allocated annually to states – by 6.2 percent. An additional FMAP increase would support Kentucky’s Medicaid program, ensure families have access to vital heath care services, and bring relief to the state budget.

Action the federal government can take

Increase the FMAP for Medicaid health services by 6 percent and for dental services by 5 percent

Food assistance priorities for Kentucky kids and families

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved several time-limited waivers for the Supplemental Food Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) benefits to ensure access to adequate nutrition for children and families during the pandemic. Continued federal investment nutrition access programs and an extension of vital waivers would ensure meal services are continued for children.

Action the federal government can take

  • Increase the SNAP benefit by 15% to ensure access to adequate nutrition for children and families
  • Support Child Nutrition Program Response and School and Summer Food Service Program waivers through the end of the year to ensure meal services are continued for children as schools reopen in the fall including the following waivers and/or budget relief:
    • Extend Pandemic-EBT
    • Extend Nationwide Waiver Authority of USDA for Child Nutrition Programs
    • Authorize Budget Relief for School Nutrition and CACFP Operators
    • Increase WIC funding and access

Child care priorities for Kentucky kids and families

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $67.2 million in Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding to Kentucky. Despite the funding increase, home-based and licensed child care centers have permanently closed, further stressing Kentucky’s fragile child care sector. Continued federal investment in CCDBG would allow children to have quality early learning opportunities, parents to have safer care options as they go to work, and the economy to begin to rebuild.

Action the federal government can take

Provide an additional investment of $50 billion in CCDBG funding, which will provide approximately $958 million in child care aid to Kentucky, to stabilize the child care sector and better serve families seeking to return to work

Income support priorities for Kentucky kids and families

The CARES Act provided families with a one time income support check that provided $1,200 to each qualifying adult and $500 for each qualifying child, which expired on July 25. Adults without a social security number did not receive the $1,200 income support, nor $500 for each child, due to their immigration status. As conversations around recovery efforts progress, additional income support that is equal for adults and children as well as accessible to households regardless of their immigration status is critical for Kentucky families to support their children’s needs.

Action the federal government can take:

  • Authorize an additional round of income support payments of $1,200 for a single taxpayer and $2,400 for those filing jointly, and make those payments equal for adults and children
  • Allow households with mixed immigration status to receive the income support payment so all families can provide for their children’s needs during the COVID-19 pandemic

Juvenile justice priorities for Kentucky kids and families

Protect the health, safety, and well-being of youth involved with the juvenile justice system.

Action the federal government can take

Allocate $75 million for states to fund essential medical and educational services and community supports for young people involved with the juvenile justice system during this time, including:

  • Adequate testing kits, cleaning supplies, and preventive supports to protect the health of the youth and staff in secure facilities
  • Medical interventions for youth who are not able to go home and closing any gaps in Medicaid coverage for those who have recently returned to detention
  • Distance-learning and remote therapy in secure facilities and for youth who have been released early
  • Adequate training for probation offices and equipment needed to provide remote-based services, like home incarceration
  • Ensuring costs for any interventions aren’t passed on to the families, many of whom may be experiencing increased financial hardships during this pandemic

Child welfare priorities for Kentucky kids and families

Given Kentucky’s high rate of incidences of child maltreatment and the risk associated with the stress that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating for families, there must be continued federal investment and policy change. We must support families to keep children safe from child abuse and neglect, strengthen response and intervention systems to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, and address the needs of older youth already in, or transitioning out of, the foster care system.

Action the federal government can take

Undertake a comprehensive approach that addresses the entire child welfare continuum. This includes increasing funding to:

  • CAPTA Title I by $500 million for state and local child protection systems
  • CAPTA Title II Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CB-CAP) grants by $1 billion for locally-driven prevention services and programs
  • Title IV-B, Part 2, the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF) by $1 billion for stabilizing families, supporting foster parents, and other prevention efforts
  • Kinship navigator programs by $20 million for relative caregivers at acute risk of COVID-19, such as food, health and safety supplies, and other necessities
  • Court Improvement Program (CIP) by $30 million to mitigate impact on child welfare courts
  • Title IV-E Chafee funds by $500 million for young people in the transition from foster care to adulthood

Along with these policy changes:

  • Suspend the work, school, and program participation requirements for youth in extended foster care to allow these young people to remain safe, healthy, and housed
  • Place a moratorium on discharges from the foster care system for youth ages 18-21 to provide stability for these young people
  • Ensure the FMAP rate increase is provided to the new Title IV-E Prevention Program

K-12 education priorities for Kentucky kids and families

While the CARES Act invested over $13.2 billion for K-12 schools into a flexible education stabilization fund, national education leaders estimate that approximately $250 billion of additional federal investment is needed in order to prepare districts for the upcoming school year. School districts across Kentucky have selected varied reopening plans and will need a flexible pot of investment dollars in order to facilitate in-person, virtual, or a hybrid plan of both styles of school instruction. Increased federal funds are needed now to ensure that students receive quality learning opportunities in in-person classrooms or via temporary online instruction.

Additionally, the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to leave state education budgets with significant holes at a time when increased education funding is needed now more than ever before. Federal dollars are needed to ensure that students and staff have the tools they need to maintain their safety and access to education both today and in the future.

Action the federal government can take:

  • Provide funding for school districts to adhere to health-monitoring and cleaning protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
  • Increase funding so that districts can hire additional staff to implement health and safety protocols by increasing the number of school nurses and custodians and provide funding for mental health professionals to adhere to students’ increased social/emotional health needs
  • Provide funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for students and staff
  • Provide funding for before and after school child care programs and school transportation options who must adhere to health and safety protocols
  • Increase funding for student and staff technology used to facilitate distance learning such as laptops and tablets
  • Invest in efforts to provide reliable internet access for low-income families and those in rural areas

Internet access priorities for Kentucky kids and families

As families, and the rest of the Commonwealth, have gone virtual for work, school, visits with health professionals, and staying connected with family, friends, and community services, the overwhelming need to reliable, high-speed internet has become clear. Nearly a quarter of our Kentucky households do not have internet access – cutting families off from numerous opportunities in the virtual space. All Kentucky families need to have the opportunity to live, work, and learn online so they can stay healthy at home.

Action the federal government can take

Fund home internet access for low-income families and make broadband access widely available, including rural areas, to ensure children are not be left behind or deprived of necessary services because they do not have reliable internet access.

Housing priorities for Kentucky kids and families

The COVID-19 pandemic has further jeopardized the health, safety, and education of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness and threatens to create new waves homelessness and vulnerabilities to child trafficking. In order to prevent further harm, dedicated resources are needed through programs and systems that are best positioned to immediately help children and families experiencing homelessness, and ensure their long-term stability.

Action the federal government can take

  • Allocate at least $2 billion for the Emergency Family Stabilization Act (EFSA) to provide flexible funding for community organizations to meet the unique needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness.
  • Allocate at least $500 million for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program, which removes barriers to school enrollment, attendance, and success caused by homelessness.
  • Allocate at least $300 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) program to holistically serve young people experiencing homelessness by building relationships with youth, meeting their immediate needs, providing short and long-term residential services, and conducting outreach efforts to move youth out of homelessness.
  • Ensure that unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness are able to access stimulus payments.

Census priorities for Kentucky kids and families

Time is essential to make sure that the U.S. Census Bureau can count everyone, especially young children who are at particularly high risk of being missed. The 2010 Census missed 2 million children under age 5—by far the largest number of people missed in any age group. When young children are missed in the census, it reduces the federal resources for their schools, their child care, their health care, and many other programs essential for their well-being.

Action the federal government can take

Extend the statutory reporting deadlines for the 2020 Census by four months.

Advocates, stay up-to-date on federal advocacy needs and other ways to take action for Kentucky kids and families on our new COVID-19 Action Hub.

Check out Kentucky Youth Advocates’ COVID-19 online information hub for information on upcoming and past Advocate Virtual Forums, relevant podcast episodes and blog posts, and more.