These Commission Summaries are intended to provide highlights of the First 5 LA Board of Commissioners’ actions to advance the outcome areas of First 5 LA’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan.
At the February 9 Commission meeting, highlights include a farewell to outgoing Commissioner Nancy Au and a state and federal policy briefing and subsequent breakout sessions.
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With the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan’s focus on policy and systems change to benefit the greatest number of children, February’s Commission meeting provided an opportunity for Board members to receive a briefing from and provide guidance to policy and strategy staff and advocacy partners on the progress of this work at the state and federal level.
Public Policy and Government Affairs Director Peter Barth first acknowledged the important countywide systems change efforts being conducted by staff, department managers and executive leadership to collaborate with other partners on expanding home visiting and high quality affordable child care, as well as improving access to early identification and screening services.
“Beyond the work we are doing here in L.A. County, there are decisions in Sacramento and in D.C. that directly impact families and kids in L.A. County.” -Peter Barth
“Beyond the work we are doing here in L.A. County, there are decisions in Sacramento and in D.C. that directly impact families and kids in L.A. County,” Barth said.
Barth turned the presentation over to First 5 LA’s advocacy partners for an update on the legislative landscape around prenatal to 5 issues at a time of political uncertainty and the potential challenges for moving the agency’s policy priorities forward within the arenas of early care and education (ECE), health, communities and families. Presenters included the agency’s federal advocate, Michael Yudin, principal at the Raben Group; state advocate John Benton, principal at California Strategies and First 5 Association Executive Director Moira Kenney.
Among the key federal highlights:
- Under the Trump administration transition, Yudin noted that new appointees in the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and the Office of Management and Budget will impact spending, policies and programs that impact young children and families.
- With fiscal year 2018 beginning on October 1, the new Congress and the Trump administration will weigh in on budget priorities for the coming year.
- Efforts by the Republican-led Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, are unclear as to whether it will be replaced and, if so, what it will be replaced with. Additionally, an effort to cut Medicaid could also lead to critical cuts in health care services for low-income children, as well.
- The Child Care Development Block Grant is “hemorrhaging”, while President Trump’s campaign proposal to create tax credits for families to help pay for child care do not really apply to low and middle-income families, opening the door for bi-partisan coalition to identify tax policies that can support these families.
Among the key state highlights:
- With 14.3 million Californians on the Medi-Cal program, uncertainty at the federal level over the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act is causing a great deal of concern in Sacramento, Benton said.
- Governor Brown’s concern about an economic downturn – being driven by reduced revenue projections and the growth of lower wage jobs – are driving his budget decisions.
- Instead of childhood education and home visiting topping state lawmakers’ lists of legislative priorities, the most significant issues on their minds are infrastructure and affordable housing.
- The ECE Coalition, of which First 5 LA is a member, released a letter to the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and budget chairs on their priorities for the state budget. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon recently announced his blue ribbon commission on early childhood education issues that has significant Los Angeles representation.
- The First 5 Association’s Advocacy Day on January 31 was praised by Benton as “a great event”.
During the breakout sessions that followed, Commissioners asked a variety of follow up questions ranging from federally-funded home visiting to Head Start. Much of the focus was about how best to make the voices of child advocates heard.
Vice Chair Judy Abdo wondered when was the best time to reach out to others to support child-friendly policies in Sacramento. Benton suggested the best time was after Governor Brown’s budget revise in May, when crucial decisions are made.
Commissioner Dennis noted the need to be more strategic about messaging after Trump’s nominees are confirmed and before potential cuts come down from Washington.
To deliver these messages, a combination of data and storytelling techniques was urged by both federal and state advocates.
“I’ve been in D.C. for 25 years,” Yubin said. “Nothing is more effective in influencing a policymaker than a story from home.”
Commissioners took a moment to reflect on what they heard following the breakout sessions.
Dennis noted the feeling of uncertainty that permeated the meetings.
“Uncertainty should not be paralyzing,” he said. “We still have to continue to do the work at hand. Let’s take action, be forthright and strategic.”
In other actions, the Board voted to approve the agency’s 2017-2021 Long Term Financial Projection and announced committee assignments for 2017, including the return of L.A. County Supervisor Chair Sheila Kuehl as Board Chair and Judy Abdo as Vice Chair.
Read the full meeting agenda here.