Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates
As final state budget discussions shifted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor and General Assembly had the needs of kids and families in mind. In the now one-year state budget, we’re celebrating wins and reflecting on areas in which our attention must focus on federal advocacy to ensure there aren’t gaps in critical programs and supports families depend on.
- First, Kentucky’s many relative and fictive kin caregivers can celebrate a much-needed boost to the Relative Placement Support Benefit, which is a critical one-time start-up support that caregivers can use to purchase clothing, bedding, formula, and school supplies. These families are especially vulnerable right now as many face financial instability and added stress as school-age children have shifted to schooling at home.
- We are also applauding the funding commitment to improve school safety and student resiliency, especially the emphasis on utilizing federal Medicaid funds for school-based health and behavioral health professionals to provide needed services right where kids will need it most. This, in coordination with continued support of Family Resource and Youth Service Centers, is a pragmatic investment for the well-being of our young people.
- Additionally, we were glad to see a continued emphasis from the General Assembly to address the youth vaping epidemic with adoption of a state excise tax on e-cigarettes. We applaud this effort as a first step toward preventing kids from utilizing these harmful products. We will continue to advocate for a tax equivalent to that currently on cigarettes to ensure a beneficial impact for kids and to see a boost in additional revenue for the state budget.
- The health of Kentuckians and access to health care and coverage have increasingly been part of COVID-19 discussions. While ensuring we can all access health coverage when needed has been a clear priority of our leaders, we were disappointed that an increase to the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP) was removed in the final state budget. We are hopeful that there will be continued increases in federal supports for Kentucky’s Medicaid program to ensure every Kentucky kid can get the care they need to be healthy and to bring relief to the already strained state budget.
- Finally, we are glad to see a maintained commitment to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) for our families who are working but struggling to make ends meet. However, we are disappointed at the lost opportunity to increase access to child care for more hard working families across the Commonwealth. Without continued increases to federal funding, a lack of access to child care will handicap families seeking to re-enter our workforce and jeopardize the stability of our economy when this crisis is over.
Budgets illustrate priorities, and Kentucky kids and families deserve to be prioritized as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact every aspect of our lives. Kentucky Youth Advocates and partners in the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children will continue advocacy efforts for federal supports that will sustain the state budget and boost the Commonwealth’s economy, including supporting the state Medicaid program, the child care community and the families they serve, and vulnerable families involved in the child welfare system.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at www.kyyouth.org.