It’s been a busy couple of months for Gov. Daniel McKee, who has given an inaugural address, a State of the State address, and proposed a budget, all while outlining his priorities for Fiscal Year 2024: raising incomes, improving education, and boosting health care. As the General Assembly begins the process of turning McKee’s proposal into the budget bill for next year, it is time to look back on the state government’s promises from last year.
In his 2022 State of the State address, McKee proposed three main policy goals: building more housing, providing more subsidies for childcare, and channeling financial aid to small businesses.
Housing: McKee proposed directing $250 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward housing. Of the seven components included in McKee’s housing proposal, only one, $50 million for down payment assistance, was cited specifically in his speech. The other components included $90 million for the development of affordable housing, a $25 million site acquisition grant program, $20 million to support workforce housing, and over $25 million for homelessness assistance and increasing shelter capacity. Though the final budget bill included all seven proposals, the amounts appropriated to each were reduced.
Of the $20 million set aside for the development of affordable housing, over $14.5 million (23% of available funds) has been committed to projects and $2.5 million of that has been expended, financing 13 developments with 485 units of affordable housing. All $15 million of the available funds for the current and last fiscal years have been committed for the site acquisition program, supporting 25 properties projected to create 570 units of affordable housing. Other programs, like the downpayment assistance program, just started this year despite having appropriated funds last year.
Less than $500,000 of the $15 million set aside in the General Assembly’s budget bill for homelessness infrastructure and housing instability assistance has been spent. This has been the subject of criticism, much of which has centered on former Housing Secretary Josh Saal.
Childcare: McKee proposed covering all kids in Medicaid, estimated to be about 3,000 statewide, and setting aside $1.9 million in general revenues to do so. This proposal was passed in the FY23 budget bill, sponsored in the General Assembly as the “Cover All Kids” proposal. In addition to setting aside about $2 million for benefits and implementation, the bill also allows the use of state funds to pay for coverage if federal funds are not available. McKee also proposed extending Medicaid coverage to women from 60 days postpartum to 12 months, regardless of immigration status, and proposed a $6.6 million increase from all funding sources to cover the increase. This provision was included in the FY23 budget bill. McKee also proposed increasing the Child Care Assistance Program rates to make more families eligible, which was accomplished last year.
Of the roughly $20 million of federal pandemic money allocated for child care support, over $13 million has been spent, and nearly $200,000 in $2,000 grants have been doled out under the Family Provider Support program.
Small Businesses: McKee proposed funding direct grants to small businesses, which were still recovering from the widespread lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, as part of a broader economic recovery initiative. The FY23 budget bill included a $50 million grant program to aid small businesses, and of that, over $14.7 million has been spent. Additionally, the state has provided $3.3 million in small business technical assistance grants, and $2.2 million in small business recovery grants.
Overall, the state government has made progress in fulfilling its promises from last year, but there is still more work to be done. As McKee tours the state promoting his proposed budget, the General Assembly is working to turn his proposal into the budget bill for next year.