By Cassidy Christopher, Health Policy Manager and Kaitie Dong, Policy Manager
Governor Inslee's proposed 2023-25 budget was released on December 14 and it contained a robust set of proposals to support Washington’s children and families, including significant investments in early learning, youth behavioral health, and economic support for working families.
The Governor’s office has heard the need to better support the early learning workforce. The proposed budget includes increases in rates for Working Connections Child Care and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program which will help ensure early childhood educators are paid a fair wage that reflects the true value of their work. There is also funding to lower barriers to entering the profession by waiving background check fees. Additionally, the budget recognizes that educators need for resources to care for children who have different behavioral health needs or disabilities, by financing Complex Needs Funds.
Addressing the behavioral health crisis and transforming the state’s behavioral health system are top priorities in the Governor’s budget. There are numerous proposals that seek to improve access and quality of mental health and substance use services for children and teens, including investing in the youth behavioral health workforce by increasing provider rates and expanding the 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline. Among many other proposals, the budget also increases funding for Tribes and Indian health programs to use for opioid and substance use response activities, and extends a pilot program for youth that involves intensive outpatient care as an alternative to full-time psychiatric hospitalization.
The Governor has continued his commitment to helping working families by funding the implementation of the new Working Families Tax Credit program, which ensures families get much-needed cash back in their pockets. Funding would also be provided to study the feasibility of "Baby Bonds", which aim to close the wealth gap by investing $4,000 for every baby born in Washington state who received Medicaid before their first birthday.
During the coming months, Children’s Alliance will work with lawmakers and advocates to ensure that the final budget includes our policy priorities that were omitted in the Governor's budget proposal, including implementing a Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program and full funding for free school meals. Stay tuned for how you can get involved!