Andrea Bennett

Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

Tough budget times make for tough decisions. And that is certainly true for the just finalized Kentucky budget. Yet there are several aspects of the budget which merit applause and bring hope.

We all win as Kentuckians when the Governor, Senate, and House come together to address endemic budget fractures like the pension system. The Commonwealth can’t move ahead without tackling those kinds of major crises.

Additionally, a number of specific items in the budget show common sense and a commitment to families. There is no better example of that than the increase in eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to 160% of the federal poverty level. We know this program is vital to many low-income working parents to ensure they have stable and safe child care options for their children. It helps the economy as it is a proven program to help parents find and maintain jobs.

Finally, an under-discussed but potentially significant win comes from the very way in which the budget is structured. Cabinet Secretaries have unusual latitude in using dollars to improve systems and outcomes. As an example, we are encouraged by preliminary discussions around shifting dollars in the child welfare system to help more children be placed in family settings, like kinship care, which have shown to often be better for the child and less costly for the state. That elbow room invites creativity and innovation in tackling critical areas for kids.

It’s easy to pick apart the solid work of Speaker Stumbo, President Stivers, and Governor Bevin.  It’s more appropriate today to celebrate a budget that faces problems head-on; moves several issues ahead for young people; and just may offer a pathway to better days for our most vulnerable children.