The First 5 Network Responds to Governor Newsom’s May Budget Revision
May Revision Provides an Opportunity to Advance a Whole-Child, Whole-Family Agenda
ALAMEDA, CA (May 18, 2022) – The First 5 Network, comprised of First 5 California, the First 5 Association of California, and the 58 local county First 5s across the state, applauds Governor Newsom’s May Revision proposals centered on supporting a whole-child, whole-family framework to address the pressing needs of California’s youngest children and their families. California’s $97 billion surplus has provided an unprecedented opportunity to reconstruct and build a robust early childhood system for the long term.
Critical investments in healthcare, early literacy, early intervention, and transitional kindergarten were among the most prominent in the Governor’s revised budget plan. The May Revision also provides funding to support re-determining eligibility for Medi-Cal enrollees if the federal public health emergency ensuring uninterrupted coverage ends, as expected on July 15, 2022. Additionally, the inclusion of Early Start eligibility threshold changes demonstrates a clear commitment to identifying and addressing developmental delays in our youngest children at the earliest moments possible.
However, the First 5 Network was disappointed to see that the Governor did not adopt our priority to maintain continuous eligibility for children until their 5th birthday without need of an eligibility review. This could mean that thousands of California’s youngest children will lose coverage for well-child visits and preventive services, including immunizations and critical developmental screenings.
The First 5 Network encourages the Governor to build upon the Senate’s “Putting Wealth to Work Plan” priorities, which includes $10 million for continuous Medi-Cal eligibility for children from birth to age 5, that is part of AB 2402 by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, a co-sponsored legislation by the First 5 Association of California.
“We know that 50 percent of the time, when children lose Medi-Cal coverage, the reason is a catch-all category called failure to respond,” noted Kitty Lopez, President of the First 5 Association of California. “We also know that 90 percent of brain development happens before the age of five. Ensuring young children maintain regular access to prevention and screening, without facing bureaucratic barriers, is an investment in their long-term health and well-being.”
The May Revise also includes new investments in behavioral health services for children and youth, such as vital funding for youth suicide prevention, but did not direct funding for children 0-5.
“First 5 Association will continue to advocate for dedicated new funding for mental health prevention and early intervention for our youngest children so they can thrive and be ready to succeed in life and in school,” said Deborah Kelch, Interim Executive Director of First 5 Association of California.
As the First 5 Network, we continue to support the Governor’s January Budget proposal to fund Home Visiting programs and early literacy investments.
“We are grateful for Governor Newsom’s leadership in support of whole child investments and are particularly excited for his commitment to expand early literacy efforts starting with the $10 million in the January budget and other investments in May Revise to support literacy. Building upon this partnership, the First 5 California Commission has dedicated an additional $18 million to the Early Literacy Program to reach many more families through partnerships and complement the Administration’s vision,” said Jackie Thu-Huong Wong, Executive Director for First 5 California.
The May Revision also does not address two additional components of our whole-child, whole-family agenda: 1) the reimbursement rates for childcare providers to acknowledge rising inflation and operation costs, which affects providers’ ability to remain open, and 2) the challenges that prevent low-wage earners from utilizing the state’s Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance (SDI) programs. These priorities are part of the Senate’s plan.
“California can lead by making our family paid leave program the most equitable in the nation by addressing the shortfalls in these programs that prevent parents and caregivers from bonding with their newborns and young children,” said Jackie Thu-Huong Wong.
“As California experiences a second straight year of extraordinary budgetary surpluses, many families continue to face challenges from the economic and health impacts of COVID-19. First 5 LA appreciates the Governor’s continued commitment in the May Revise to making health care more accessible, expanding home visiting programs and increasing support for black infant health programs,” said Kim Belshé, Executive Director at First 5 LA. “However, the proposal to extend family fee waivers by only one year and not reimburse childcare providers for the true cost of care fails to support our state’s most vulnerable. Prioritizing young children cannot beat one-time commitment, but requires an ongoing investment. We need to provide every child the opportunities of quality early learning experiences by committing to ongoing investments that support families in their child’s earliest moments.”
The First 5 Network commends Governor Newsom for prioritizing the following proposals which align with our Whole Child, Whole Family Policy Agenda:
●$73 million General Fund over 2 years to complete Medi-Cal redeterminations once the federal COVID-19 public health emergency continuous eligibility requirement ends on July 15, 2022. When the federal requirement expires, the state will have 14 months to initiate and complete eligibility reviews.
●$6.5 million General Fund in 2022-23 to support adjustments in identifying children with qualifying signs of developmental delays.
●$290 million to support children’s mental health and community-based youth suicide prevention and outreach programs.
●$157 million to waive childcare and preschool family fees for about 400,000 low-income families from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.
●$200.5 million for minor renovation and repair projects for childcare facilities in low-income regions and areas with minimal access to services.
●$114 million to hold harmless voucher-based childcare providers and preschool providers reimbursement for authorized hours of care, from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023