February 10, 2022 2022-23 Pennsylvania Budget Proposal Response On February 8, 2022, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released the 2022-23 state budget proposal. The principal partners of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, are pleased with proposed investments in pre-k, evidence-based home visiting, and perinatal and child health. However, the proposal fails to adequately invest in child care. ELPA operates four issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, Childhood Begins at Home, and Thriving PA. Governor Wolf’s state budget proposal included: Pre-k $60 million in additional funding for the state’s Pre-K Counts program. $10 million in additional funding for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. Together, this $70 million expansion could serve approximately 2,300 additional young children. In a press release, ELPA states, “This funding continues the Commonwealth’s tradition and Governor Wolf’s unwavering commitment of expanding access to high-quality pre-k. This $70 million proposed expansion could provide this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to more than 2,300 additional young learners. “Research shows that high-quality pre-k benefits children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development and confirms the Commonwealth’s investment in pre-k pays dividends for the children fortunate enough to access it. This investment is not only essential for our children, but high-quality early education supports labor force participation, healthy families, and a globally competitive workforce of the future. By increasing pre-k access and opening the door to more families, our economic recovery reaps the benefits.” Child Care Level funding for the state Child Care Assistance and Child Care Services line items. $77.7 million in federal funding to sustain child care subsidy base rates. $44.3 million in federal funding to sustain the reduction in out-of-pocket family co-payments. $6.1 million in federal child care funding to sustain the incentive for providing non-traditional hour care. $30 million in state funding to provide state employees with increased access to and affordability of child care through the Department of General Services. “The Wolf Administration’s budget proposal is an inadequate response to the current child care crisis and misses an important opportunity to help working families in search of affordable high-quality care,” ELPA representatives stated. “Furthermore, failure to fully stabilize the child care sector jeopardizes the efforts of Pennsylvania businesses trying to rehire their labor force. Child care programs are closing classrooms and entire facilities due to teacher and staff shortages. Child care staff are overworked and underpaid with the average child care teacher making less than $11 per hour.” While the budget proposal does utilize federal funds, ELPA believes it is not sufficient in light of flat funding for Pennsylvania’s Child Care Services and Child Care Assistance line items for the third consecutive year. Start Strong PA is urging state policymakers to allocate a portion of the projected year-end surplus of $2.8 billion to address staff recruitment and retention, and increase access to quality care for working families, specifically for infants and toddlers. Home Visiting $15 million in additional funding for evidence-based home visiting in the Community-Based Family Center line item (this will serve an additional 3,800 pregnant women, children, and families), as well as $8 million in one-time federal stimulus funds specified for home visiting. “Following two years of level funding, the [Childhood Begins at Home] campaign is pleased to see Governor Wolf’s proposed investment restarts his commitment to increasing service levels beyond the 5% of Pennsylvania families currently served,” ELPA stated. Perinatal and Child Health Funding allocated for postpartum coverage extension for women in Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months. $11.5 million in increased funding for the Early Intervention Part C (infant and toddler) program through DHS, with $1.2 million allocated for children eligible for tracking when their mothers have a positive screen for postpartum depression or anxiety. Level-funding for the Part B Early Intervention program (age three to five) offered through PDE. ELPA stated, “Medicaid is a significant source of insurance for Pennsylvania women and birthing individuals— especially for women of color— so expanding coverage to a full year postpartum is a vital step towards closing racial and health disparities. “Additionally, we must ensure all children from birth through age five with developmental delays are identified, referred to, and accepted for the services they need to reach their fullest potential.” More Information Read ELPA’s full budget response statement for details. The Pittsburgh-based early childhood nonprofit Trying Together and other partners of ELPA will continue to advocate for these investments as the budget process continues. Stay up-to-date on how to advocate for these issues by signing-up to support Trying Together’s public policy agenda.