2022 Legislative Session sees wins for youth development

The 2022 Washington State Legislative Session ended on March 10th with several youth development-related budget wins, including funding for mental health, additional child care subsidies, and more. And there were policy wins as well.

The first was a behavioral health request ($1M) based on a pilot at the Boys & Girls Clubs that allows youth to access mental health services on-site and provides funding for mental health-related training for staff. The funding will go towards the pilot as well as for training for other providers. Child care received additional funding to increase subsidy rates by 16% ($45.9M) as well as funding to pay for Enrollment-Based Payments (April-June 2022 at $21.215M) to pay providers subsidy based on enrollment rather than attendance, which is important to keep programs afloat due to continual COVID-related absences of children and staff. This is all in addition to Co-Pay Waivers (April-June 2022 at $9.5M) for families to waive family subsidy co-pays this spring. While major steps in the right direction, child care is still very underfunded, particularly given inflation and the hiring crisis.
There were several bills that impact the expanded learning field and youth. A bill to create grant programs for Outdoor School (HB 2078) passed which provides funding for outdoor education experiences as did a bill to Pay for Lived Experience (SB 5793) that would allow the state to easily pay individuals for their lived experience (ex. youth in expanded learning programs or former youth experiencing homelessness) that participate in government planning and legislatively-created workgroups. Additionally, a bill passed to increase funding for mental and physical health staffing in schools (HB 1664).

While hiring FTEs is the priority, school districts can contract with community-based organizations for that work. Another bill passed that allows for Electronic Free and Reduced Meals Forms (HB 1833). This is a great opportunity to increase the number of families turning in Free and Reduced Meal forms which is important for both increasing access to meals, but also increasing funding to schools that can be utilized by Youth Development programs as many funding formulas use the number of kids on meal programs to determine funding allotments for a given school or school district (ex. federal Title I funds and the High-Poverty – Learning Assistance Program. Additionally, free meal access will hopefully increase for children and youth as a bill to expand and Meal Area Eligibility (HB 1878) passed.