The House and Senate passed a spending plan, which was signed by Governor Wolf before their June 30th deadline. It is a $32.7 billion dollar spending plan which was agreed to by all four caucuses in the General Assembly, as well as the Governor. It was very much a bipartisan budget and United Way priorities fared well throughout.
We are very pleased to announce the state made a second-year investment in statewide 2-1-1. The appropriated amount was $750,000, which was synonymous with the amount in the FY2017-18 budget. 2-1-1 communications now is now a stand-alone line item in the budget, under Human Services. This is a major victory for the United Way network and PA 2-1-1! This has been a priority for UWP and we are excited the state is invested in PA 2-1-1 and the services brought to Pennsylvanians. We enjoyed very broad, bipartisan support for this initiative, but especially want to recognize the leadership of Senator Browne and Representative Bloom who have been our primary champions for 2-1-1 funding.
High Quality Early Childhood Education and Child Care
UWP is also happy to share that there was an increased investment of $25 million to help thousands more children gain access to high quality Pre-K and Head Start programs. Funding for Pre-K Counts was increased by $20 million, and funding for Head Start Supplemental Assistance Increased by $5 million. UWP became a principal partner for the Pre-k for PA campaign and supported their work in advocating for an increase. Child care services also increased by $6.8 million, which will be used to reduce the waiting list for child care which is essential to low income working families. There was a new investment in home-visiting programs of $6.735 million. Some examples of home-visiting programs include Parents as Teachers, which provide research-based child development and parenting education and Nurse-Family Partnership, which helps eligible first-time parents experience healthy pregnancies, learn how to take good care of their babies, and make plans for the future.
Human services were largely flat-funded in the budget, with the exception of an investment to assist individuals with intellectual disabilities, including $16 million for these individuals to access waivers to provide supports and services so they can remain in their home. Over 900 people will be served with this investment.
Other Noteworthy Items
Some other items that were stand-outs in this year's budget include:
- investments into workforce development, through increased funding for vo-tech education and the launch of the PAsmart initiative;
- an investment of $60 million into school safety;
- an increase of $25 million for the Education Improvement Tax Credit, bring the total to $160 million;
- PA Community HealthChoices funded for statewide implementation; and
- Keystone Scholars Grant Program expanded statewide starting in 2019.