RICHMOND, VA — On Sunday, February 16, 2020, the House Appropriations Committee released their budget for the biennium, increasing funding for health and human resources by $1.2 billion from the current 2018-2020 budget, and about $40 million more than the Governor’s introduced budget.
The House budget addresses many long-standing health inequities, including an increase in funding by more than $125 million for Developmental Disability and personal care provider rates and an expansion of eligibility criteria for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). TANF criteria have not been addressed since the 1990s. (These anti-poverty initiatives aim to help Virginians meet their basic needs and lead successful futures.)
Another focal point of the House budget is women’s health. The budget includes almost $16 million to expand maternal health services to lower maternal and infant mortality rates across the Commonwealth by reimbursing doulas and midwives through Medicaid. Once again, long acting reversible contraception methods are funded, allowing women to make the best decisions for their health with their health care provider.
The budget also builds capacity for the Step Virginia program and attempts to solve the state mental hospital bed census crisis. The budget invests $56 million in outpatient services and $55 million in discharge assistance plans to transition individuals from state mental health hospitals back into the community. Additional funds are set aside to establish the Office of New Americans, a state-based health insurance exchange, and a sexual assault and domestic violence prevention fund as well.
As Chair of the HHR Subcommittee, Delegate Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) says, “This budget addresses the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. There will be more work to do with the Senate in order to send the best possible budget to the Governor.”
The full budget includes other areas such as employee and teacher pay, school counselor recruitment, early childhood reforms, housing, and more funding for the environment and natural resources.