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Final Passage of Federal Stimulus Package Imminent

Since our last newsletter, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed a new round of economic stimulus and pandemic recovery legislation. The $1.9 trillion plan passed the House along party lines on February 27, with only two Democrats voting with Republicans in the negative. Senate negotiations delayed the process late last week, however an amended version of the American Rescue Plan passed the Senate by a vote of 50-49 (with one senator not voting) on Saturday, March 6. Several provisions of interest to PPC are Included in the package:

  • $150 million in stimulus funding for evidence-based home visiting – the first time these services received funds in a relief package.
  • $40 billion in funding for child care – about $15 billion through the Child Care Development Block Grant and approximately $25 billion allocated for a child care stabilization fund.
  • $130 billion for K-12 schools via the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF) with the requirement for local education agencies (LEAs) to reserve at least 20% of funds to address learning loss.
  • $250 million in for child abuse and neglect prevention programs as authorized under Title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), with $100 million provided for the child abuse and neglect treatment and response state grant program authorized under section 106 of CAPTA.
  • $880 million in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) - $390 million for outreach, innovation, and program modernization efforts to improve participation and $490 million to temporarily boost the value of the cash voucher up to $35 per month for a four-month period.
  • An extension of the 15% increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit through September, which currently expires at the end of June.
  • $350 billion for state and local aid with $195 billion explicitly set aside for state aid – greatly aiding policymakers in Harrisburg as they look to negotiate the FY 2021-22 state budget.
  • Language allowing states to extend Medicaid eligibility to women for 12 months postpartum.

Moderate Senate Democrats negotiated with President Biden to change several provisions of the bill, most notably lowering the caps on who can receive direct stimulus payments. Because of this change, the House of Representatives will have to vote again on the Senate proposal before it can be signed into law. The House is scheduled to vote on the Senate version of the bill imminently, which will send the bill to President Biden’s desk for final signature.


Departments of Education, Human Services defend Proposed Budget

State budget hearings for the Department of Education (PDE) and Department of Human Services (DHS) took place last week where department secretaries defended the governor’s proposed budget. Much of the discussion during the PDE hearing centered around Gov. Wolf’s $1.3 billion increase in the Basic Education Funding (BEF) line item and a proposed 46% increase in the Personal Income Tax to raise revenue for the expenditure. Rep. Megan Schroeder asked about the recent study by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill evaluating Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program. Acting PDE Secretary Noe Ortega testified that the study showed positive learning gains for those students who participate in pre-k programs as opposed to those who do not and reinforced that investing in pre-k since the enactment of the program in 2007 has been a wise decision. The governor’s proposed increase of $25 million for the Pre-K Counts program and $5 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, if enacted, would allow about 3,200 more children to enroll in publicly funded, high-quality pre-k programs. When asked about career and technical education, Ortega said that a career and technical education centers offer a good pathway for students to earn a livable wage and quickly contribute to our economy but looked to the legislative branch to further discussions on investing in this area of the budget.

During the DHS hearing there was a robust discussion around child care including the spending of more than $300 million in federal stimulus funds received by the state as part of the package passed by the federal government in December, the status of Education and Retention awards (ERAs) paid to child care centers that were suspended by OCDEL, the need for centers to re-open so parents can return to the workforce and more. Rep. Morgan Cephas asked DHS Secretary Teresa Miller about the lack of an increased investment in evidence-based home visiting despite the governor’s proposal speaking to the need to support families as we recover from the pandemic. Secretary Miller noted her personal support of home visiting but followed with there not being enough state dollars to expand evidence-based programs. She also stated evidence-informed home visits being done by Medicaid Managed Care Organizations will help in supporting families. The Childhood Begins at Home campaign still believes an increase is needed to support children and families as the pandemic recovery continues and will advocate for one before the legislature. Finally, on the child welfare front, DHS committed to opting-in to the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) by the federal deadline of October 1 but noted overall a lack of clarity on the fiscal impact to the state or where counties stand.

Senate budget hearings begin this week, which were delayed this year in part to get a clearer idea of revenue collections after the first quarter of 2021 and monitor federal action on another round of stimulus aid. The Department of Human Services is scheduled to appear this Wednesday, March 10 while the Department of Education is not slated to appear until March 18. PPC will continue to monitor the hearings and provide updates on the ongoing budget process. 


Wolf Administration Announces Plan to Spend Latest Federal Stimulus Funding for Child Care

As noted above federal stimulus funding for child care was a topic that came up in the DHS appropriations hearing last week, and again when the administration announced its plans to spend $303 million in federal stimulus funding to support the child care sector. The funding was received through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, the stimulus legislation passed in December. The funding appropriated to Pennsylvania was part of the larger appropriation of $10 billion allocated to the sector.

The Administration announced the funding will be dispersed in a variety of areas, including:

  • $140.7 million in direct support to child care providers experiencing reduced enrollments, based on provider type and maximum licensed capacity and assuming centers are operating with approximately a 32% enrollment reduction.
  • $64.6 million for child care providers to account for increased costs for healthy and safe operations.
  • $87.1 million to support increased, regionalized base payment rates for providers participating in subsidized child care.
  • $3 million to address the waitlist of child care professionals to receive pandemic relief awards, which will serve an additional 5,000 people.
  • Nearly $1 million to support an administrative rate increase to Early Learning Resource Centers (ELRCs).
  • $7 million in reserve for child care providers who are temporarily closed but may reopen, making them eligible for the funding.

Department of Health Publishes County-Level WIC Data

Last week the state WIC Bureau within the Department of Health published data at the county level for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. You can access this data here. The hope is for this data to be updated monthly moving forward – it is presented by participation rather than by caseload/enrollment, but is also available by race and type (i.e., children, infants, pregnant women, postpartum women, etc.).

Since Pennsylvania began its parental-to-age-three collaborative, PPC is a proud to partner with the administration and other stakeholders to work toward the availability of more comprehensive data.


Join Pennsylvania’s Prenatal-to-Age-Three Collaborative for a Maternal Health Town Hall

Please join Pennsylvania’s prenatal-to-age-three collaborative to discuss maternal health and access to care for moms who use Medicaid as their health insurance during pregnancy. Mothers will share their personal experiences giving birth and accessing doula and behavioral health services through Medicaid. You can support our efforts in advocating for equitable maternal health by attending this event and sharing your experiences with legislators throughout Pennsylvania! Register for the event.  


Pre-K is Working in PA

The Pre-K for PA Campaign is hosting a special spring webinar at noon on Tuesday, March 16th to present results from a new research study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the impacts of the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program. Presenters will review data showing the impact on children’s early learning and kindergarten readiness. Pre-K for PA and the Start Strong PA (child care) and Childhood Begins at Home (home visiting) campaigns also will provide updates on the state budget and campaign activities for the spring.


Elliot Weinbaum, Program Director, William Penn Foundation

-  Ellen S. Peisner-Feinberg, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist & Research Professor, School of Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill      

Register today! 


Supporting Foster Youth during the Pandemic

PPC recently joined other statewide advocacy organizations in sending a letter  to the Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) with recommendations for implementation of the provisions of the Supporting Foster Youth and Families During the Pandemic Act, which was passed as part of the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act. The act provides significant increases in Chafee and Education and Training Voucher funding to support older youth, with Pennsylvania receiving almost $14 million combined. The letter further recommends quickly identifying foster youth who have aged out or will age out prior to September 30, 2021, including suggestions of how to distribute funding, and underscoring the need to publicize options available to youth. OCYF has indicated it is committed to supporting older youth in foster care and those transitioning out of care, and is developing guidance for the county child welfare agencies. 


Delay of OCDEL Family Support Programs Request for Application (RFA)

Citing timing challenges, OCDEL does not expect contracts awarded through the Family Support Programs Request for Application (RFA) to be in place by July 1, 2021. OCDEL will extend existing grants for a 3-month period to provide services for families through September 30, 2021. These include voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services provided by evidence-based home visiting programs that are part of the Childhood Begins at Home campaign.


In Case You Missed It...

  • Senator Scott Martin and Senator Lindsey Williams, Senate Education committee chairs, issued a letter to the Biden Administration requesting that Pennsylvania be issued a waiver for standardized testing. 
  • Governor Wolf provides details on his proposal for charter school reform. 
  • The COVID-19 Taskforce announced that teachers and other school employees will be prioritized in the phase 1A vaccination plan.
  • U.S Senator Bob Casey  and Reps. Susan Wild (PA-07) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) have introduced the CHIPPER Act in both the Senate and House, respectively. This legislation would retroactively extend the enhanced federal match for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through September 2022, allowing states to receive enhanced funding as they grapple with the ongoing public health emergency.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
200 North Third Street 13th Floor | Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(717) 236-5680 | info@papartnerships.org

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