Details are still coming out about the stimulus deal U.S. House and Senate negotiators worked out in conference. The House approved the agreement this morning, and the Senate is expected to vote this afternoon.
We’ve gotten the lowdown on several of our key priorities, including estimates of what the stimulus could mean for children here in our Washington. The targeted support for kids should help us hold kids harmless as lawmakers cut their way to a balanced budget. Here’s the rundown:
The stimulus package that came out of conference included the higher House investments in early learning programs. $2 billion will go to the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program, which supports low-income families in obtaining quality child care. That will bring an estimated $33 million into Washington’s early learning programs. Plus, Head Start and Early Head Start programs are set to get $2.1 billion nationwide--an estimated $5.3 million for Washington state. Early learning took a hit in the budget the Governor
released in December. This funding should help restore some of the cutbacks Governor Gregoire had to make back then.
The stimulus package will send Washington more money to pay for our Medicaid program. What the feds will do is reimburse a higher percentage of the state’s cost for covering low-income people in the Medicaid program. So, instead of getting 50 cents on the dollar, for example, Washington will get 57 cents or more. Preliminary estimates from the Government Accountability Office put the total for our state about an extra $2 billion over the next two years. Medicaid, of course, covers children and adults. About 64 percent of the folks covered by Medicaid in Washington state are children.
The bump in the Medicaid rate comes on top of the Children’s Health Insurance Program legislation signed by President Obama last month. That bill means $15 million more a year for the next 4 ½ years that will go to children’s coverage in Washington.
This enhanced support for children’s health care should not be diverted to cover gaps in other parts of the state budget. Being able to get kids the health care they need helps hold families afloat in an economic crisis.”
Recognizing that people who lose jobs may not be able to buy food anymore, the stimulus package includes increased support for Food Stamps totaling about $20 billion. We anticipate $392 million in added Basic Food benefits for Washington program participants and $7.1 million for administration of the program—money that can and should be used to restore at least some of the cut Community Service Offices workers who signed folks up. The additional food stamp money will help the economy as well as individual families. Each dollar spent in local grocery stores generates a total of $1.80 of economic activity, according to the USDA. The stimulus package also included an additional $500 million to respond to rising demand for the WIC program, the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and young children.
The Center on Budget and Policy and Priorities in Washington, D.C. is planning to post state-by-state breakdowns for the provisions in the stimulus package throughout the day. You can look them up at www.cbpp.org