Dear Governor Newsom and State Legislators,
Thank you for your leadership in addressing this pandemic and your tireless work to support our health, our economy, our communities and our most vulnerable residents.
The spread of COVID-19 is impacting everyone, and every corner of life. It is particularly devastating for California’s children and families who were already in crises before the pandemic: families with young children – the cohort of our state’s population most in poverty – who couldn’t access essential supports, including sufficient nutrition and quality child care and preschool; children who were abused and neglected and/or witness to domestic violence; the majority of California students who lacked the educational supports they needed to meet basic grade-level reading and math standards; many children living in immigrant or undocumented families; the unacceptably low number of children in Medi-Cal who received preventive care and health screenings; and the millions of young people experiencing mental health challenges, including many who struggled with suicidal thoughts. Vulnerable kids were not receiving the supports and services they needed as we entered 2020, requiring a significant shift in state priorities to ensure our collective future. Now this shift is essential as a result of COVID-19.
Moreover, during the last economic downturn, it was child-serving programs, including early childhood and K-12 education, that received the most dramatic funding cuts in California. We can’t repeat that history.
The undersigned call on you to prioritize kids in the upcoming 2020-21 state budget – holding crucial children’s programs and services harmless and increasing targeted supports as much as possible.
Specifically, we urge the following:
Stabilize the fragile child care system by extending the hold harmless provisions for child development programs through budget year 2020-21.
Ensure our education system has sufficient resources for the summer months to provide school meals and to address the significant learning loss that has occurred.
Protect schools from budget reductions, mid-year cuts and funding deferrals through the next academic year, and prioritize support for our most vulnerable students as required by LCFF.
Provide targeted funding for training programs like youth mental health first aid so that adults who care for children, including school staff, are able to de-escalate tense emotional situations and provide appropriate support.
Ensure expedited implementation of the Family Urgent Response System (FURS) for foster youth and their caregivers, who need immediate access to trauma-informed supports during moments of instability.
Establish the Child Welfare Disaster Response Fund to provide critical resources for children and youth in foster care and their caregivers who face unique challenges when disasters strike.
We recognize the strain you are experiencing as you try to grapple with the enormity of this crisis and keep the Golden State intact. As always, prioritization is essential, and we urge you to ensure that our most precious constituency, our kids, are your top priority.
The Undersigned Organizations