California Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced a budget flush with billions of dollars for health care amid the Omicron-fueled pandemic, spending that would include dozens of new safety-net investments, a tax break for young adults, educational support for foster youth and a boost for the state’s transition away from its juvenile prison system.
Buoyed by a $45.7 billion surplus of tax revenue, the first-term Democratic governor revealed a record proposal that calls for immediate funding to combat the latest COVID-19 surge through additional testing, vaccinations and support for hospital staffing. His $286 billion budget also includes a proposal to establish universal health care coverage for all California residents — including undocumented immigrants — and to address “existential threats” to the state’s future, among them homelessness and climate change.
“The budget is not a reflection of me, but it is a reflection of what I believe: Our values as a state,” Newsom said at a press conference.
Following his approval last year of a novel universal basic income project for young people who exit the foster care system, Newsom is now proposing another source of support for these often-struggling youth in the form of a new tax credit. In what is believed to be the first-of-its-kind policy, young adults ages 18 to 25 in California would be eligible for a $1,000 check if they spent at least one day in foster care after age 13.
The $19 million plan builds on the California Earned Income Tax Credit serving low-income families and through which Newsom dispersed state stimulus checks last year.
Anna Johnson, associate director of housing and health for the San Francisco-based advocacy organization John Burton Advocates for Youth, said many current and former foster youth have reported having their earnings and employment significantly reduced during the pandemic. That has caused some to curtail educational dreams, while others have missed out on their first jobs or have been unable to meet basic needs.
Johnson said the new tax credit is designed to provide a modicum of support that might otherwise be provided to young adults by their families.
“It’s not okay that these young people are at such high risk of homelessness or dropping out of school because they don’t have the financial support that their peers have,” she said.
Newsom’s draft budget proposal also continues a recent trend of boosting educational investments expected to serve foster youth and other vulnerable California public school students. After a billion-dollar investment last year, this year’s budget includes another $3.4 billion to tackle learning loss during the pandemic, by expanding after-school and summer programs. The funds in Newsom’s budget plan would be directed to schools with the greatest concentrations of foster youth, low-income students and English language learners.
The state’s community college, state university and University of California higher-education systems would also receive $28 million to expand on-campus foster youth support programs. This funding is the first time California’s two public university systems have received such targeted state funding, which would provide students with money to help with books and supplies, transportation, tutoring, food and emergency housing.
Other notable child welfare investments included $50 million to expand state home visiting programs and a $1 million plan to help counties provide family-finding services to expand the number of foster youth taken in by relatives.
Finally, the California budget proposal put forward by Newsom would address the state’s plan to shutter its youth prison system by delivering a huge windfall to local probation agencies. Under the terms of a 2020 agreement to close down the state’s three Division of Juvenile Justice facilities, serious youth offenders can now be held in local juvenile halls, camps and ranches until age 25. While the state is planning to send hundreds of millions of dollars to counties to house and rehabilitate these young adults, advocates and probation officials have been concerned about the state’s investment in the new arrangement.
Under the governor’s plan, the state’s Board of State and Community Corrections would dole out $100 million to counties with the goal of making juvenile facilities “more conducive to serving justice-involved youth with a wide range of needs, with a focus on supporting trauma-informed care, restorative justice, and rehabilitative programming.”
San Mateo County Chief Probation Officer and Chief Probation Officers of California President John Keene hailed the new funding.
“We welcome the much-needed investment proposed in the Governor’s budget to update juvenile facilities to make them more reflective of the rehabilitative and transformative work being done every day,” Keene said in a statement released today.
Newsom’s proposal now kicks off six months of negotiations with California legislators, who face a June 15 deadline to pass a balanced budget.