2023 Legislative Wins for Children and the Programs That Serve Them
Family Economic Security
After a year of uncertainty, state treasurer Russell secured funding to launch the program. Baby Bonds are intended to help address the persistent wealth gap. As of July 1st, $3200 would be deposited into an account for every baby whose delivery is paid for by HUSKY, the state’s Medicaid program. Those funds will grow with interest so that when the child is between 18 and 30 there will be funds they can take out to: pay for college, start a business or put towards the purchase of a house in Connecticut.
The state budget (Sec 279-285) included several reforms to the state’s Temporary Family Assistance program funded by the TANF block grant. These include extending the time limit that a family can receive assistance from 21 months to 36 months, increasing the asset limit from $3000 to $6000, and increasing the income disregard from the federal poverty limit to 230% of the FPL so that families can earn and save more before being cut off. Families earning between 170% of FPL and 230% of FPL will have a 20% reduction in benefits which can continue for up to 6 months. Currently only a small fraction of the 51,000 children in deep poverty (<50% of FPL) get help through TANF cash assistance.
Reduction in the state income tax rate
The state income tax rate was reduced for the first time. The reduction benefits households earning less than $300,000 with the largest reduction in the lowest income bracket.
EITC increased to 40%
CT’s refundable state EITC is increased from 30.5% to 40% of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. This benefits working poor families with children.
Extending HUSKY (Medicaid) coverage to undocumented children.
The budget included funding to raise the age of coverage for undocumented children up to age 15 (from 12). Once on HUSKY children remain eligible until 18.
Child Care and Early Learning
Changing the Kindergarten Entry Age
Connecticut finally joined the rest of the country in requiring children to be five by the start of school rather than 4 years and 8 months effective 9/1/24.
Raising Rates for the Care4kids Child Care Subsidy Program
SEIU/CSEA local 760 won an 11% rate increase for family child care providers in each of the next 3 years. The biennial budget extends a 10% increase to center-based providers as well.
Creating a Protected Services Category with in Care4Kids
The OEC Commissioner may create a protected services category making children in foster care, children who have been adopted in the past year and homeless children eligible for child care subsidies regardless of other issues that might disqualify them (parental employment, work schedules etc)
ARPA funding to partially mitigate subsidy cliff
The budget appropriates a final $35 million in ARPA funding in FY24 to soften the blow from the end of pandemic CCDBG funding. Those funds enabled Connecticut to add almost 8,000 children to the Care4Kids subsidy program. To address the end of pandemic funding Connecticut instituted a waitlist for Care4Kids in March. The state budget is predicated on a gradual reduction of the Care4kids case load from the current 23,000 children to 17,500. (This is still more than the pre Covid caseload of 15,000 but no where near what we need)
Rate increase for State funded preK
School readiness and CDC programs will get a two and a half percent cost of living increase for their employees in the new state budget. Additionally they will see the full day full year pre-k payment level increase 16% to $10,500 in the second year of the budget (fy25)
Zoning protections expanded to Group Child Care homes
Group Family Child Care homes (able to serve 12 children with an assistant) will now enjoy the same protections from local zoning that Family Child Care homes currently have making it much easier for Family Child Care providers to expand. .
Creation of an Early Childhood Fund
To be established by the Comptroller, this fund will be able to accept funds from philanthropic foundations and other sources. The OEC Commissioner must make recommendations to the legislature each February on its expenditure. The legislature retains appropriation power.
Human Capital Tax Credit Expansion
The state’s Human Capital business tax credit for businesses is increased from 5% to 25% for construction of child care facilities and subsidies for employee child care. CAHS and the Alliance worked to add language to allow employers to get the construction credit if they contributed funds to a not for profit building child care capacity that would serve the employer’s workers.
Bonding for infant toddler capital projects
$5 million is allocated to renovation projects to increase contracted infant toddler capacity under the state's Child Development Center program.
Allowing child care programs to stock Epinephrine
This bill makes it possible for child care providers to stock epinephrine and administer potentially life saving medicine to a child in anaphylaxis even if the child did not have a previous diagnosis. It does not require programs to do this nor does it pay for the epinephrine.
EvenStart Funding Increased
CT’s three Even Start programs serving infants/toddlers and their parents who haven’t completed high school saw their funding restored after being cut in the past.
Local Early Childhood Collaboratives Funded
The local Early Childhood Collaboratives previously funded through the PDG grant received $2 million per year in both years of the budget.