New Ohio two-year budget has good and bad news for Clevelanders
by Brittney Madison
(Plain Press, August 2019)On Wednesday, July 17, Governor DeWine, after approval from both chambers, signed House Bill 166, the $69 billion, two-year budget. Included in the budget were tax cuts and increased spending on children’s services, education, and public health programs. The bill passed with bipartisan support, clearing the House by a 75-17 vote and the Senate 29-1.
Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equality (NOBLE), a coalition that focuses on issues surrounding the constant attack on state funding for Health and Human Services, Public Transportation, Education and Local Governments, focused on key issues effecting Clevelanders during the budget debate. What follows is a summary of those issues.
NOBLE advocated for the protection of the Medicaid Expansion program. Medicaid Expansion provides health insurance for 600,000+ Ohioans including individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, $17,236 per year. Threats were made to the program when the Ohio House briefly added a provision that would require that recipients pay copayments and premiums for services. This dangerous provision was left out of the final version of the budget and the state share for Medicaid Expansion was increased.
Kinship Care is a temporary or permanent arrangement in which a relative or any non-relative adult who has a long-standing relationship or bond with the child and/or family, takes over the full-time, substitute care of a child whose parents are unable or unwilling to do so.
Kinship care is the most desirable out-of-home placement option for children, offering the greatest level of stability by allowing children to maintain their sense of belonging, and by enhancing their ability to identify with their family’s culture and traditions.
Foster care is a temporary service provided by the state for children who cannot live with their families. Kinship care providers whose responsibilities are virtually the same as foster care providers have not been treated equally in regard to state resources.
Often, kinship caregivers receive little to no financial support and or advice regarding how to navigate the many systems necessary to help them meet the needs of the children in their care. A KNP would maximize the caregivers’ ability to provide safety and stability and, if needed, permanency for the children placed in their home.
The budget allocated $8.5 million to establish a Kinship Navigator Program in Ohio and added $5 million for the foster and kinship family recruitment and engagement efforts.
NOBLE advocated for an expansion of publicly funded child care eligibility from 130% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) to 200% FPL. This would make more Ohio families eligible for care. Currently, 130% of FPL equates to $27,000 for a family of three with two children and one adult.
Eligibility for publicly funded child care was not expanded. The state invested more than $99 million per year to improve the quality of Ohio’s childcare system and help providers recruit qualified educators.
Care for Older Populations:
NOBLE advocated for increased funding for senior services. Funding for senior services has experienced sharp decline over the years. These services provide support for Ohioans 60 and older who live at home but need help as they age with basics like home-delivered meals, transportation and personal care. Cuts to senior services make it hard for elderly Ohioans to care for themselves and jeopardizes their safety.
$1.2 million was added to the Senior Community Services Block Grant, but the funding was directed solely to the Senior Farmers Market Program (SFMNP). The SFMNP provides $50.00 in coupons that eligible older Ohioans can use to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from participating farmers. These coupons can be redeemed for fresh, unprepared, locally sourced fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey from farmers’ markets.
NOBLE also advocate for increased funding for Adult Protective Services (APS), requesting at least $10 million per fiscal year directing $65,000 per county. These services prevent physical, emotional and financial harm to vulnerable seniors.
The Ohio Family Violence Prevention Project estimates that each year 105,000 older adults (over 60) in Ohio are abused or neglected. There is much need in the state for at least one caseworker in each county dedicated to making sure that seniors are safe, well cared for and not living in fear or abuse; current funding levels do not allow for this.
The state investment brought APS line item in the budget from $2.74 million per year ($31,000/county) to $4.23 million per year ($48,000/county). This is still not an adequate amount to allow for at least one dedicated caseworker in each county.
NOBLE advocated for affordable well-funded public education, in line with the DeRolph decision.
DeRolph v. State was a landmark case in Ohio constitutional law in which the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that the state’s method for funding public education was unconstitutional. The Ohio Supreme Court found that the state “fails to provide for a thorough and efficient system of common schools,” and directed the state to find a remedy.
No long-term solution was reached to create a method for funding public education.
Ohio schools will get a state funding increase for wraparound services in the next two years, $675 million will be invested aimed at tackling health, drug, social service and other non-academic student issues that many believe hinder student learning.
Local Government Fund:
NOBLE advocated for an increase in the Local Government Fund. In Ohio, the local government funds police, courts and social services for seniors, people with developmental disabilities, mental illness or addiction. Between 2006 and 2018, local governments in Ohio lost $1.4 billion per year. Cities were hit the hardest overall.
The state increased the Local Government Fund by 1.68%, resulting in an additional $5.2 million each year, which is still inadequate.
NOBLE advocated for the tightening of the limited liability loophole, which would lower the amount that companies who claim business income deductions can write off from state income taxes from $250,000 to $100,000. By tightening the loop hole hundreds of millions of dollars would be generated for education and health and human services programs.
While the budget restricts lobbyists and lawyers from using the tax break, most business owners will continue to avoid taxes on the first $250,000 of their income, while paying a lower rate of 3% on the remaining money.
Editor’s Note:Brittney Madison is an Organize Ohio staff member working with NOBLE