Plan includes billions for education of vulnerable youth, millions to prepare for Family First Act
Relying on an unexpected $15 billion windfall in tax revenue from wealthy Californians, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced a budget proposal on Friday that includes billions of dollars to address the raging coronavirus pandemic, a modest boost to some safety-net programs for vulnerable children and families and a plan to get more of the state’s most vulnerable students back in the classroom.
The $227 billion budget proposal for the coming fiscal year includes a previously announced $600 cash payment to an estimated 4 million low-income Californians and the extension of a state eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of the month. Those proposed investments — made possible by one-time tax revenue from the state’s wealthiest earners — are part of a relief package that Newsom is hoping legislators will take action on later this month to address the strain of the coronavirus.
On the same day the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the nation’s economy lost jobs for the first time since April, Newsom said the better-than-expected tax revenues had helped the state avoid cuts to safety-net programs like MediCal and CalWorks.
“We are on much better fiscal footing than anyone could have imagined even a few months ago,” Newsom said at a Sacramento news conference Friday, noting that given the recent COVID-19 surge, “the future is very, very, very tenuous.”
As the state recorded a record number of coronavirus deaths this week amid shutdowns across the state, Newsom pledged billions of dollars in new funding to hasten the reopening of schools and to address the impact of learning loss, particularly among low-income children and foster youth.
Under the governor’s spending plan — which now goes to an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature — the state would set aside $2 billion to help school districts cover public health costs related to in-classroom instruction, beginning with preschool through the second grade. If school districts complete a coronavirus safety plan by February, they would be able to claim between $450 and $700 per student for pandemic-related costs.
The governor’s plan prioritizes the state’s most vulnerable children — those with disabilities, youth in foster care and in low-income and immigrant families, the homeless and students without access to technology or high-speed internet. Newsom proposes to set aside $4.6 billion to correct pandemic-related learning loss among these groups by funding an extended school year or summer school.
Angie Schwartz, vice president of policy and advocacy with the Alliance for Children’s Rights, applauded the governor’s focus on the needs of vulnerable students in his budget proposal.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and local educational agencies to address the significant issues of learning loss our students with disabilities and other vulnerable populations, including youth in foster care, are experiencing and developing concrete learning recovery plans,” Schwartz wrote in an email to The Imprint.
Newsom’s spending plan also calls for nearly $250 million to provide high-quality transitional kindergarten programs for all 4-year-olds in the state, an ambitious master plan for early learning and care released last month.
But that was not enough for some advocates.
“While the proposal dramatically augments federal investments in some other areas, it does not include significant new state investments for our fragile child care system, which is essential to getting our economy back on track,” Children Now President Ted Lempert said in a statement.
The 2021-22 budget proposal also includes funding for some of the governor’s executive actions taken last year to support caregivers, provide laptops and cellphones to foster youth, financial assistance to families of children at risk of entering foster care and assistance to some foster youth who turn 21 during the pandemic.
The governor pledged to set aside $61.1 million, including $42.7 million from the general fund, to begin implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act and its new requirements on residential placements for foster youth.
In most years, the state Legislature holds budget hearings beginning in April. This year, lawmakers will begin weighing parts of the 2021-22 budget — including the school reopening plan and stimulus payments — as soon as next week, starting with an Assembly budget committee hearing on Monday.
“I’m optimistic we will reach the light at the end of the tunnel later this year, as vaccination rates increase,” Assemblymember Phil Ting (D), chair of the Assembly Budget Committee said in a statement. “Until then, we must continue to stabilize Californians and small businesses struggling during these unpredictable times.”
The Legislature and Newsom must agree on a finalized state budget by the end of June.