Final Budget Makes Major Investments in California’s Future
After months of planning, negotiation, and anticipation, Governor Brown’s signature last week on this year’s budget signals a new day for tens of thousands of families around the state.
This year’s state budget represents major progress on two issues central to Next Generation’s mission:
- Expanding access to comprehensive early care and education services for vulnerable children and families; and
- Ensuring more families know about their ability to access Paid Family Leave to care for a new child or ailing family member.
The final budget includes $263 million to expand preschool and child care services for more than 13,000 children this year. In addition, the funds will provide needed increases to reimbursement rates for providers and build on quality improvement efforts so that children receive the best early services possible.
This multi-year investment is a tremendous effort to expand access to early learning and care for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children in California. As the best evidence now confirms, investing in quality early care and education is a powerful tool to boost human capital, doubling or even tripling the return on investment to the state’s economy.
Although there is more work to be done, California has taken a bold step with this budget, righting painful cuts that have fallen the hardest on vulnerable families. We applaud Governor Brown and legislative leaders for making early learning a top budget priority.
In addition to these investments, and due to the dedicated advocacy of Next Generation, the California Work & Family Coalition, and advocates around the state, the budget also includes a modest investment out of the State Disability Fund to increase awareness of the Paid Family Leave program. California’s first-in-the-nation, worker-funded Paid Family Leave program provides workers with up to six weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child or care for a sick family member.
However, research suggests that a majority of eligible California residents are not aware of the program, especially low-income, Latino, and younger workers. This is unfortunate, given research indicating that Paid Family Leave can help lower post-partum depression, increase a family’s chances of finding reliable child care, and increase rates of breastfeeding, among many other benefits.
By investing a small portion of the State Disability Fund into outreach and education, the program will better serve the very people who pay into it out of their paychecks. The funding included in the governor’s budget will be used to create a smart and targeted campaign to reach the groups that have the lowest awareness of the program, and who use it the least.
This year’s budget also includes a number of other important provisions – including expanded access to vital health services for pregnant women, continued funding for the Black Infant Health program addressing high rates of preterm births and infant mortality, and boosted funding for the state’s welfare program – that are encouraging steps in the right direction.
We applaud our legislators and Governor Brown for these investments to help struggling California families and substantially investing in our children’s future. We look forward to building on these successes in the years to come.