COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine is hoping his proposed $75 billion biennium budget will be a shot in the arm to a COVID atrophied economy.
With $1 billion of those dollars heading toward Ohio businesses, community, and economic recovery — other special interest groups are working to ensure their causes aren’t left out.
Tracy Najera, who directs the Children’s Defense Fund Ohio, said she’s happy with many aspects of the proposed budget.
“The student wellness and success dollars that were included in Gov. DeWine's budget — we saw that as something that was necessary for recovery,” Najera said.
She said while everyone has been impacted by the pandemic, it is the children who could be suffering long-term effects.
“Many children have suffered emotionally, through isolation, and just not being with their friends. And also absorbing the stress of their own household, with so many people having lost employment, it's hard for a child not to absorb the stress of their parents,” she said.
As one of their priorities, Najera and her organization are crusading an effort to make childcare more accessible.
As it stands now, DeWine is proposing raising the poverty threshold for publicly funded childcare from 130% to 138%.
“You’re talking about a family of three making about $30,000 a year," Najera said. "Those are the individuals who can qualify. When you talk about all the other aspects of living — rent, food, transportation — there’s is a crowding out of resources for these families”
They’re working with a house subcommittee bill to extend that coverage to those making $43,000 or less per household.
She points out that childcare is often an economic problem placed on the shoulders of women.
“In this past year, we have seen record numbers of women leave the workforce,” Najera said.
Najera said these goals are achievable with existing funding.
“As a state, we’re experiencing revenues greater than anticipated by almost a billion dollars, $2.7 (billion) in the rainy day fund, we are experiencing an embarrassment of riches right now.”
The Children’s Defense Fund is also championing infant and maternal mortality solutions, like more accessibility to doula care. It’s an area where purse strings have been tightened.
“It's about investing in what we say we believe in. If infant maternal health is something we prioritize, we do not expect to see reductions in those areas.”
The House and Senate have until the summer to finalize their versions of the budget.