Governor Inslee signed the 2020 supplemental budget last week in the backdrop of a major public health crisis caused by COVID-19. Due to the steps that the Governor has taken to reduce the impact and spread of virus the amount of revenue coming into state coffers is slowing down and leading to a deficit that obviously was not predicted when state lawmakers completed their work. The good news is that we have a fairly healthy emergency fund of about $3 billion to help make up the difference. The bad news is that it is likely not enough to completely avoid the Governor and lawmakers (at a later date) from having to make tough choices. And today we felt some of that impact.?
As expected, the Governor made several significant cuts to the budget through his veto power. In particular, funding for more school counselors and para-educators was eliminated. We are glad that he maintained funding to support homeless families and largely spared early learning from vetoes which was great. Moments before the Governor was going to take action we really weren’t sure what was going to happen. He maintained rate increases for working connections child care which will be a huge help and much-needed, especially as providers are serving so many children of emergency workers on the front lines. He also signed our bill to guarantee families a full 12 months of child care and funded our key policy priority this session to stabilize child care for homeless children (HB 2456).
Despite our advocacy work it was a decidedly mixed bag for ECEAP. The Governor decided to veto the 5% cost per child rate increase for ECEAP we know all of you had hoped for. But he did keep in the budget funding for the complex needs fund, which will provide a small amount of funding ($2.1 million) to help you support children with special needs and children experiencing trauma in your program. ? He also approved additional money for the Early Learning Facilities Fund and other early learning projects around the state.
Honestly, we are disappointed as I am sure you are. We fought hard alongside of you for the rate increase for ECEAP so that you could provide the services needed to help children and families living in deep poverty. We heard from many ECEAP providers over the past year that without at least a modest boost in funding you would have to reduce the number of children enrolled—sadly this comes at a time when it’s likely that more and more families are going to need our help.?
We continue to hear rumors that the Governor will call a 30-day special session in the coming months or even weeks. This could be an opportunity to push for more funding for ECEAP. But as you know it also might be a session where lawmakers and the Governor might need to agree on additional and deeper cuts to the budget. Much will depend on the state of economy and the revenue forecast that should be out shortly. Further, we may have another opportunity in January 2021 when the new two-year budget session begins. At that time we will also have more data points from our waiting lists, from DCYF, and from the outside work being done to determine the cost of providing ECEAP services. Again we don’t know what that will look like but we will have a clearer picture presumably. ?
Please know that we continue to appreciate your work and the resilience of your staff as well as the families you are serving during this very difficult time. Thanks again for all your support and most importantly for all the work you are doing to be there for our most at risk children and families!?