First 5: May Budget Revision Advances Holistic Approach to Improving the Health of Children and Families

ALAMEDA, CA (May 14, 2021) – Governor Newsom’s May revision to the state budget plan includes exciting proposals to meet the holistic, short- and long-term needs of young children and families, especially in the areas of comprehensive health and development and family resiliency, said First 5 Association of California, First 5 California, and First 5 LA today.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified just how important it is to nurture the whole child and whole family, especially those farthest from opportunity, by investing in multiple areas, from mental and physical health to family and financial stability,” said Kim Goll, president of the First 5 Association board and executive director of First 5 Orange County. “We’re pleased to see these elements in the Governor’s plan.”

First 5 uplifts the following proposals, in particular, as supporting an equity-based, whole-child, whole-family approach that focuses on the families most in need:

  • Five-year extension of Medi-Cal eligibility for postpartum individuals to 12 months after birth
  • Creation of a Medi-Cal dyadic care benefit to improve preventative care for young children, address social-emotional needs, and support maternal mental health 
  • Addition of doula services as a covered Medi-Cal benefit, effective Jan. 1, 2022
  • Addition of Community Health Workers to provide culturally responsive care to Medi-Cal clients, increasing investments up to $201 million by 2026-27
  • $12 billion in a second round of Golden State Stimulus payments that will reach two-thirds of Californians, with $600 direct payments to all taxpayers who make up to $75,000/year and didn’t receive a first payment; an additional $500 in direct payments to families with dependents; and an additional $500 in direct payments to undocumented families 
  • $10.6 million in one-time funds through September 2023 for early childhood mental health consultation, to support child care providers in addressing children’s social-emotional development, using trauma-informed practices, and promoting health and wellbeing for children and families impacted by the pandemic
  • $23.8 million to extend Early Start services for children with developmental delays up to age 5, and $1.2 million in federal IDEA funds, and the addition of one staff position, to improve coordination between state and local agencies to support the IDEA Part C to Part B transition
  • Continuance of Prop. 56 supplemental payments that incentivize well-child visits and screenings for ACES and developmental delays ($550 million, ongoing) 
  • Continued financial support to work across systems to address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) 
  • A 5.3% increase to CalWORKs Maximum Aid Payment levels, estimated to cost $142.9 million in 2021-22

“We commend the Governor for proposing resources that are foundational to a strong California– strong children and families. Continuous Medi-Cal eligibility for postpartum moms, wrap around services for parents and young children, improved access to culturally and language appropriate care from community health workers and doula services are investments that will translate to strong children and families and a more just and equitable California. A ‘generational…transformational’ budget, indeed,” said Kim Belshé, First 5 LA’s executive director.

While there is much to applaud in the governor’s budget proposal, our children and families’ wellbeing– and our state’s economic recovery– is contingent on stabilization and expansion of child care. The proposed 100,000 new child care slots is a strong start, but is simply not enough to build back from the loss of 57,000 permanent slots during the pandemic, on top of the state’s pre-pandemic waitlists that barred too many parents from receiving child care, especially infant-toddler care. A final budget plan also must address the foundational issue of increasing provider reimbursement rates and fixing our state’s broken reimbursement rate structure.

We are pleased to see initial down payments to support the child care field– in the form of stipends for providers, the waiving of family fees, the continuance of hold harmless payment policies, and funding for child care facilities– but more funding is needed, and such policies must be extended beyond 2023.

“We have a unique opportunity with this year’s budget surplus to build back child care systems in a way that addresses inequities that have persisted for far too long,” said Melissa Stafford Jones, executive director of First 5 Association of California. “We look forward to working with the Administration and the Legislature on a final budget plan to build a child care system that meets the needs of families, recognizes the essential and tireless work of providers, and helps ensure a full economic recovery for our state as we emerge from COVID-19.” 

Following a year when many parents had to leave the workforce to care for families at home, it is also critical that we maintain the current 70% wage replacement for paid family leave for low-income families, and prevent it from lapsing back to 55% at the end of 2021. We must also ensure that continuous Medi-Cal eligibility expansion is applied to children up to age five in addition to postpartum individuals, in order to prevent coverage gaps for young children at a time when their brains are developing most rapidly.

“Governor Newsom proposed unprecedented investments today for California’s children and families. I applaud the proposals for additional child care slots, child savings accounts, broadband expansion, universal basic income, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) programs and overall transformative mental health supports,” said Camille Maben, executive director of First 5 California. “We also acknowledge that this is just the beginning and we look forward to continuing conversations for critical infrastructure investments like child care reimbursement rates, paid family leave expansion, and continuous Medi-Cal coverage for children 0 to 5 years of age.”