On Wednesday, Governor Northam announced his proposed amendments to the 2020-2022 biennial budget. The proposed budget focuses on funding for Virginia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, paths for economic recovery and steps to advance a progressive agenda. As noted in our initial response, although we recognize some of the investments toward early childhood education, child welfare and school counselors, the budget simply falls short for Virginia’s children.
In summary, the budget does not go as far as we would like to provide the level of support children and families need to recover economically, or socially, and emotionally from the pandemic. As the legislature already took action to restore some of the unallotted items in the budget during the 2020 Special Session, the governor’s revised budget only adds additional funds and policy changes for the current fiscal year and FY22 beginning on July 1, 2021.
We are disappointed that the budget did not include funding for a dedicated position to staff the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet and advise on children’s issues. We hope to pursue this effort to intentionally ensure the needs of children are prioritized.
Some highlights of the Governor’s budget proposal include:
Early Childhood & Education
- Restoring $11 million to the Virginia preschool initiative to increase per pupil funding and provide additional flexibility to localities to serve 3 and 4-year-olds.
- Increasing the Early Educator Incentive Awards by $5 million to provide additional $1,500 incentive grants to early educators.
- Providing approximately $100 million in additional funding to protect public education from enrollment loses and sales tax declines.
- The budget includes bonus payments for teachers and additional funding to increase broadband access to help schools and teachers respond to the pandemic.
- An additional $27 million to hire school counselors to bring the ratio of counselors to students to 1:325.
Health & Mental Health
- $2.4 million was provided to increase access to doula care for pregnant women. Doulas have been shown to have a demonstrated impact to reduce racial disparities in maternal health.
- $38,564 for FY 22 in funding to allow members enrolled in FAMIS MOMS to access to treatment in an Institution for Mental Diseases under the Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services (ART) waiver.
- $771,612 additional funds for FY 21-22 were provided for the administrative cost required to implement the Marcus Alert legislation. The funds will be used to maintain the crisis hotline, evaluate the current capacity of the crisis systems in localities, and lastly, to provide contractual funds for a public advertising campaign.