Children’s Budget Coalition, Policy Matters Recommend FY24-25 Policies, Funding
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HB33 FY24-25 OPERATING BUDGET (Edwards, J)

An alliance of organizations focused on children’s wellbeing and the think tank Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) Thursday separately released their priorities for the upcoming FY24-25 biennial budget deliberations. Gov. Mike DeWine will deliver his executive proposal to lawmakers next week.

The Ohio Children’s Budget Coalition includes child-focused groups like Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio), Groundwork Ohio, teachers’ unions, organizations addressing juvenile justice, housing, child care, protective services and other issues, as well as Policy Matters, whose own recommendations address many of the same topics as the coalition’s.

The coalition released a report, “Creating a Vision of Child Well-Being for Ohio,” which describes current policy, opportunities for improvement and specific recommendations in 15 areas spanning physical and behavioral health, nutrition, education, child care, foster care, youth incarceration and economic security.

“Our advocacy is about making the pot bigger for children, not taking from one child program and giving to another or fighting over a tiny slice of pie,” said Katherine Ungar, senior policy associate with CDF-Ohio, in a statement, “Children do not come in pieces, and neither should the policies and investments that crucially provide and pave the way for them to grow and flourish into successful adulthood.”

Among the coalition’s recommendations are the following:

- Doubling funding for key lead poisoning prevention programs and moving enforcement authority on the federal Renovation, Repair and Painting (RPP) rule for pre-1978 housing to the state level, giving it to the Ohio Department of Health.

- Providing additional Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) money for rapid rehousing and wrap-around services for families and pregnant women, as well as additional money for the Healthy Beginnings at Home pilot project, which provides housing supports and other assistance to pregnant women and new mothers in an effort to improve infant mortality rates and improve birth outcomes. Expansion of this program was already identified as a priority by DeWine as part of his “Bold Beginning” initiative. (See The Hannah Report, 9/30/22.)

- Providing continuous Medicaid eligibility from birth to age 6 for children and increasing income eligibility for children in families up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).

- Increasing the initial income threshold for publicly funded child care to 200 percent of FPL.

- Increasing the gross income limit for nutrition assistance from 130 percent of FPL to 185-200 percent.

- Supplementing federal school meal funding so schools are fully reimbursed for served meals, and discouraging “lunch shaming” policies to ensure no child is denied a hot meal at school.

- Ensuring funding for community resource coordinators in every school district and focusing Student Wellness and Success money on school-based health care efforts.

- Appropriating approximately $2 billion to continue implementation of the new school funding formula, increasing the minimum teacher salary and expanding loan forgiveness, grants and scholarships to assist teachers.

- Waiving tuition and covering the full cost of attendance at colleges and universities for children with experience in the foster care system.

- Providing paid family and medical leave in Ohio.

- Creating a “thriving families” tax credit to help families with necessities like food, housing and child care.

Policy Matters structures its report of recommendations around measuring how Ohio compares to other states in four domains: health and wellness; learning and growth; connection and community; and dignity and opportunity. The think tank frames its report around assessing a claim made by DeWine in his 2022 “State of the State” speech that “there is simply no better place to raise a family than Ohio.”

For example, under the health and wellness category, PMO notes Ohio ranks in the bottom half of states for child food security at 35th, and recommends policies like the thriving families tax credit, greater school meal funding and increased income eligibility for nutrition assistance to help address the problem.

Under the learning and growth category, PMO points out that Ohio ranks 36th for the proportion of 4-year-olds enrolled in public pre-K and recommends pre-K be available for all such children and that kindergarten be transitioned to a full-day program.

Under the connection and community category, PMO suggests reverting to the pre-Kasich administration funding levels for the Local Government Fund, supporting the Ohio Department of Development’s FY24-25 budget request for broadband access funding, and increasing state support for transit.

Under the dignity and opportunity category, PMO recommends increasing support for wage and hour enforcement efforts, reducing the pay threshold for a worker to qualify for unemployment compensation, restoring top tax rates for high earners and creating a new bracket for those earning more than $1 million.

“In nearly every metric we examined, Ohio ranked in the middle or near the bottom of all 50 states. Compared to the nation, children in our state are more likely to go without food and less likely to live in financially secure households. Ohio parents have a harder time securing affordable high-quality preschool and child care. In Ohio, the race and the income level of a child’s family is more likely to determine how well resourced their schools are. Babies are less likely to survive to their first birthday in our state and people are more likely to die of a drug overdose,” the report states.

“However, the metrics also show what we can achieve together. Ohioans and our elected officials decided to prioritize and protect funding for our public libraries. Today, each Ohioan has more access to library resources than Americans in all but two states. In almost every community, Ohio’s libraries are well used, not only for their books, but also for movies, children’s programming, Internet services, educational talks and other enrichment activities. Whether they’re an ornate monument to a bygone era like Cleveland’s main library, or a humbler branch location, Ohio’s libraries are used nearly twice as much as libraries across the nation. When lawmakers proposed gutting the library fund during the Great Recession, Ohioans fought back, and lawmakers spared libraries from what could have been much deeper cuts,” PMO’s report states.

Both the Ohio Children’s Budget Coalition report and the PMO report are available at>Important Documents & Notices>Library.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on January 26, 2023.  Copyright 2023 Hannah News Service, Inc.