CPPP Highlights Critical Investments in House Budget

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CPPP

April 20, 2009

Policy institute urges Legislature to keep key provisions intact in final budget

Austin, Texasâ€"The Center for Public Policy Priorities today highlighted several pieces of the Texas House of Representatives’ proposed state budget for their potential benefits to low- and moderate-income families. CPPP encouraged the Texas Senate to adopt similar provisions in the final budget.

“Despite serious deficiencies, the Texas House of Representatives’ proposed budget for 2010-2011 includes some bright spots for low- and moderate-income Texans. We encourage the Legislature to retain these proposed investments in critical public structures as we move toward a final state budget,” CPPP Executive Director F. Scott McCown said.

CPPP urged the Texas Legislature to retain the following provisions in the final version of the state budget for 2010-2011:

Improvements to Texas’ Systems for Determining Eligibility for Public Benefits

The House budget proposal makes much-needed investments in Texas’ systems for determining families’ eligibility for public benefits like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Specifically, the proposed budget:

  • Eliminated the rider in the Senate budget that mandates statewide rollout of TIERS by the end of 2011. This will ensure that TIERS is not expanded prematurely, which would result in delays in services to needy families. TIERS implementation has been plagued with delays, a lack of interoperability with other computer systems, and other setbacks.
  • Includes funding to maintain eligibility staffing levels at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).
  • Gives HHSC authority to add additional staff if needed to improve the performance of the eligibility system and deal with the increased need for assistance during this economic downturn.

Increased Health Care Access

Several provisions in the House budget will improve health care access for Texans, especially children in low- and moderate-income families.

The House’s budget proposal:

  • Allows for new, affordable CHIP options for uninsured children in families earning between 200-300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), if the legislature passes enacting legislation.
  • Allows for year-round health care coverage for children in the Medicaid program, just like children in Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), if the legislature passes enacting legislation. This provision will not only ensure more children can see a doctor when sick or injured; it will also greatly reduce paperwork clogged in the overwhelmed eligibility system.
  • Invests in proven, cost-effective health services like community mental health care, nurse-family partnerships, and family planning.

Increased Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The House budget proposes temporarily increasing assistance to families receiving TANF cash assistance in 2010 using the TANF Emergency Fund that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, the federal economic recovery law) made available to states.

Support for Vulnerable Citizens

The House budget protects vulnerable citizens’ access to services, including community care for seniors and Texans with disabilities, and family violence services.

Funding for Family and Protective Services

The House budget funds 85 percent of the Department of Family and Protective Services’ (DFPS) estimated needs to keep children safe in their families or with relatives, or, when that is not possible, to successfully transition out of care. In contrast, the Senate budget funds only 15 percent of these needs. The Senate risks more failed family and relative placements which will force more children in to the more expensive alternative of foster care and place Texas’ most vulnerable children at risk of serious harm and poorer outcomes. Specially, the House budget proposal funds:

  • 91 percent of DFPS’ requests to support families receiving in-home services while the Senate funded only 8 percent.
  • 85 percent of DFPS’ requests to support relative caregivers while the Senate funded only 12 percent.
  • 73 percent of DFPS’ requests to support youth transitioning out of the long-term care of the state while the Senate funded only 32 percent.

Economic Opportunity

The proposed House budget also includes funds to increase economic opportunity for low- and moderate income Texans, including support for job training, higher education, and income tax assistance.

  • Increased funding for the Skills Development Fund (job training)
  • Increased funding for TEXAS Grants (financial aid)
  • New funding for a Texas Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program (community tax centers for federal tax credits)