Connecticut Association for Human Services

The 2016 session – figuring out the budget

By Roger Senserrich, CAHS Policy Director

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Another year, another budget deficit—but this year is truly worse.

The 2016 legislative session started like every session seems to start in Connecticut, with a hefty budget deficit for FY2017. Projections indicated that the state would spend $570 million more than what it would raise next year, so the Governor and General Assembly had  to look again for a way to balance the numbers.

Making matters far worse, in mid-February new revenue numbers came in, and the deficit turned out to be much larger than expected. In addition to a considerable increase in this fiscal year´s budget (up to $266 million deficit), the hole for 2017 ballooned to $911 million, and is likely to rise.

As a result, even if Governor Malloy’s proposed midterm budget adjustment did balance the budget, we will need more cuts—or new revenue, for which there seems to be no appetite in an election year among the Governor and legislators.

Another challenge for advocates is that it was hard to know from the Governor´s proposal exactly how he planned to balanced the numbers, and we know even less now.   In the budget adjustment, instead of the usual list of line items showing which programs receive funding and which are cut or eliminated,  all programs are bundled under a single “agency operations” line, without any specifics. We know that “agency operations” will get a 5.75% cut in funding, but we don’t know which programs are cut.

Here’s what we do know: for starters, the bulk of Connecticut’s state budget (about two-thirds of it) cannot be cut, as it covers mandatory spending, entitlements, interest payments and contractual obligations. Most of the remaining third is where social services, health care, and education funding gets its money from.  So the proposed cuts are not really across the board, but fall mostly on the needy and the social service providers that serve them.  More than $400 million of the $570 million in cuts Governor Malloy proposes cuts would come from nonprofit providers that have seen their resources dwindling for years. Although they offer essential services for low-income families, they are facing the bulk of the cuts.

As of now, the General Assembly seems poised to unbundle agency operations and provide more transparency with line items, so we at least will be able to discuss what is being cut. CAHS’s focus, as always, will be championing programs that deliver results, with an eye on improving social services. Before we can do that and work to achieve systemic change, we need to know where the money is going. It is a first step.

 


It's About Connections...

From Jim Horan, Executive Director, CAHS

Welcome to the re-launch of the CAHS Newsletter, Connections.  Our intention is for this to be more than an update on CAHS’s work to promote Family Economic Success, but also a resource to readers to engage in fighting child and family poverty and building opportunity and equality.

This is a great time launch, because we have very exciting news: the W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently awarded CAHS a three-year, $600,000 grant to support two-generation work at CAHS and throughout the state.  “Two generations” refers to efforts to promote the financial and educational success of young children and their parents simultaneously.

Connecticut is on the cutting edge of two-gen work, thanks to the efforts of the Connecticut Commission on Children and the General Assembly, which last year enacted legislation to create better outcomes for children and parents statewide and in six pilot communities.  You can learn more about two-gen strategies throughout this issue of the newsletter, including an interview with Elaine Zimmerman of the Commission on Children. 

The Kellogg grant validates CAHS’s work on Family Economic Success over more than 10 years.  Kellogg awarded the grant in part because of CAHS’s experience with both policy change and fostering effective programs in low-income communities.  The grant also reflects recognition among nonprofits and funders that we need to do business differently to achieve “collective impact”:

  • Kids grow up in families, so we need to create opportunities for children and parents.
  • Families need a range of supports, from quality early education to adult and post-secondary education, and including health and mental healthcare and connections to jobs.
  • Two-gen provides a framework for policies, programs, and systems to work together to support the family as a whole and build family success.

This two-generation initiative is a true public-private partnership.  Private philanthropic support allows all state funding to go to the pilot projects in Bridgeport, Colchester, Greater Hartford, Meriden, New Haven, and Norwalk, to create true two-gen initiatives and fill gaps in funding.  Kellogg funds will support development of templates to create better outcomes, technical assistance to the communities, and evaluation.  Kellogg’s support builds on a prior grant to CAHS from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and on-going TA to the Commission on Children from ASCEND at the Aspen Institute, a leader in two-gen initiatives.

CAHS’s roles will be to do what we do best, serving as a facilitator, partner, resource, and innovator.  Liz Fraser, a CAHS Policy Analyst with programmatic two-gen experience before she came to CAHS, will lead our efforts working with local communities, ensuring adequate technical assistance, and helping coordinate a robust evaluation.

Elsewhere in this issue:

  • CAHS Policy Director Roger Senserrich, on the 2016 Legislative Session
  • A conversation with Elaine Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on Children
  • Links
  • Hope you enjoy
  • To learn more about the work we are doing or this very exciting grant and the two-generation work it will soon by supporting, call 860-951-2212

Q & A with Elaine Zimmerman

A Question & Answer Session with Elaine Zimmerman of the CT Commission on Children, Regarding Two-Generational Initiative

Q: Why is there a “buzz” about two-gen?

A: Over the last several decades, the family has been fragmented in service delivery and consumer voice by the mechanisms of funding and the discrete functions of various non-profit and government agencies. Two-gen puts the family back in the center - not the provider or the funds.

Q: What makes this different from other approaches?

A: Two-gen addresses a problem that has bedeviled families for many years: the social services they need are “siloed,” forcing them to go to one agency for one service, then to another agency for another service, and so forth. Worse, these agencies often don’t communicate and co-ordinate with each other, which creates more headaches for families in the form of duplicative paperwork, needless waiting, and conflicting information. Two-gen gives an opportunity to deliver services more effectively and more efficiently.

For instance, we don’t yet coordinate efforts to help a child succeed in school with efforts to help that child’s parents succeed in the workforce. If we can help the parents place their child in a good school-readiness program, it will give them the time and trust they need to move forward with such essentials as learning English, finishing high school, and employment training. Even better, if these programs are co-located (such as a child-care center in the same building as a GED program) or linked with transportation for parents without cars, it will render them more accessible and therefore more successful.

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Elaine Zimmerman, CT Commission on Children

Q: What do you hope to achieve?

A: In creating the 2015-17 state budget last spring, the Connecticut General Assembly earmarked $3 million for the creation of a pilot program for two-generational approaches. It will operate in six communities: Bridgeport, New Haven, Colchester, Meriden, Norwalk, and the Hartford region. Once all the participants in those communities are fully trained, they will submit plans for their sites. With evaluators assisting them at every step, they will enact those plans and carefully gather data to help determine whether (and how) two-gen can be expanded. Among the questions to be answered:

  • Does intentional two-generational planning create better school outcomes for the child, employment for the parent and less stressors for the family?
  • What are the cost savings, if any?
  • What do we need to change in how we do service delivery and run government to help our customers be economically self-sufficient and successful?

Q: How can we meaningfully engage parents to shape this effort?

A: Families are the entire focus of two-gen, so parent input at every stage of development is essential. At each pilot site, the plan will be parent-informed. Parents will have the authority to not only give input and feedback, but guide the program and policies. They are the customers, and we will rely on them to tell us what is or isn’t working. They will be part of the policy and program trainings, have opportunity to be interns, work peer-to-peer to bring parents in with real outcomes and perform outreach to assure that parents know about this two gen opportunity. Entrepreneurial ideas will be assisted by business leaders, to help parents build in creative opportunity. We are also talking about a mobile two gen parent van that would spread the word-parent to parent.

Q: How does two-gen fit with other initiatives in Connecticut?

A: Two generational work is an effort to reduce the cycle of family poverty and to create more intentional coordinated services and programs for both parent and child. The goal is school readiness and school success for the child and workforce readiness and workforce success for the parent.

This work dovetails well and partners with, among others: a) the state’s early-care and education programs; b) home visitation programs, c) fatherhood initiatives, including an innovative effort in Waterbury to assure the engagement of non –custodial parents; d) TANF efforts to reach out to both dads and moms; e) Second Chance and restorative justices as well as f) Secure Jobs, the two-year demonstration pilot designed to increase the income of families transitioning from homelessness to housing by connecting them to the education, training, and supports they need to secure and maintain stable, competitive employment.

Q: What have other states learned with this approach?

A: This effort is emerging as we speak. Cities and states are learning from each other. For example, through the Aspen Institute, NGA and NCSL, we are sharing data and experiences. Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Maryland are undertaking versions of two-gen, and we are all beginning to share data and experiences.

Q: How can we ensure that two-gen has staying power?

A: If the customer finds this useful and successful, it will work.

Excellence in design and planning will help drive the direction.

Constant monitoring and fine-tuning are essential. That, in turn, requires detailed data. We will look at: a) child, b) parent, c) family, and d) systems change outcomes. We are raising the funds now to begin with the evaluation design in all site implementation.


Bad news on the budget front

We discussed the budget cuts and how revenue was coming below target in early February. Well, bad news: it is getting worse.budgetcalculator.jpg

  • We thought we were facing a $570 million deficit in 2017. Wrong. Current projections, after the most up to date revenue numbers, points a $911 million deficit.
  • It gets worse - for the current year (FY2016, ending this June) we are back tohaving a deficit - $266 million, to be exact.
  • Actually, it is even worse than that if you look at the next biennium (FY2018-19, after the election), with $2 billion a year deficits.

You can find more information herehere and here; the OFA projections are available here. Most of the money comes in April, so the numbers may improve, but it does not seem to be trending that way.

So - we are really going to see a budget battle now. Stay tuned.


The 2016 session: budget adjustments - a first look

 
The Connecticut General Assembly is in session, and the budget hearings have begun. With the state facing a deficit north of $570 million in the coming fiscal year, legislators are again scrambling to find ways to balance the budget.
 
There seems to be very little appetite so far for any kind of tax increases, so Governor Malloy and legislators are talking about cuts - and these cuts are being discussed, right now, at multiple Appropriations Committee hearings at the Capitol. You can find the calendar here; today the committee will hear about higher education. Tomorrow at 4 pm they will host the hearing for human services which may be of most interest to you
 
There are two things to bear in mind about the budget revisions proposed by Governor Malloy, one about process, one about where the cuts will fall. Both are important, and deserve some attention.
 

A. WHERE ARE THE CUTS?

 
The cuts for fiscal year 2017 add up to $570 million. The departments that are facing the worst cuts are the Department of Social Services ($61 million), Department of Developmental Services ($55 million) and from addiction and mental health services ($71 million).
 
This by itself would be worrisome, but it goes beyond that. According to the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance´s analysis, 72% of the cuts ($408 million) come from non-profit providers. Consequently, many core services offered by these providers will again face an uphill battle meeting the needs of low-income families in the state with diminishing resources.
 
The slow economic recovery has left many families behind. The budget is asking them again to bear the brunt of the state fiscal woes.
 

B. HOW ARE THE CUTS BEING INTRODUCED?

 
Governor Malloy has decided to consolidate most line items in the budget under a generic "agency operations" heading. After that, his proposal states that spending will be cut 5.75%, but without specifying exactly from where.
 
This is a problem. Instead of the traditional budget breakdown of proposed reductions with specific explanations of what line items are facing cuts, this proposal just offers an agency-wide spending level, and gives the authority to each agency head to decide where to cut. The result is a budget that imposes harsh spending cuts but is lacking in transparency, with no information on what programs will be eliminated.
This is not acceptable. Transparency is an essential for accountability.  The Governor´s budget proposal shifts the responsibility and decision making for crucial spending decisions from an open, public process at the General Assembly towards one with no public participation, no open hearings and limited accountability. The only way to make those decisions and introduce real, needed changes to the state budget is through an open, accountable and transparent budget process, not by delegating authority to the executive branch.

WHAT IS NEXT? HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?

 
Right now we encourage you to reach out to your legislators, even more so ifthey are on Appropriations. If you are able, we strongly encourage you to submit testimony to the committee, specially if you are involved in a program that is facing cuts. The message is simple:
  •  We should not balance the budget on the backs of those that have not participated in the economic recovery.
  • We need a transparent budget process, not cuts decided behind closed doors within each agency.
Feel free to give us a call if you have questions or need a hand drafting testimony, setting up a meeting with a legislator or preparing talking points. We will be happy to help.

Recession May Be Past, But Underemployment and Income Inequality Still Define Landscape in Connecticut

STATE RANKS 23RD OVERALL IN FINANCIAL SECURITY OF RESIDENTS; HOUSEHOLDS OF COLOR FACE HUGE UPHILL CLIMB

 
Even though the national unemployment rate has dropped to five percent in recent months, the unemployment and underemployment rates in Connecticut remain stubbornly high, according to a new report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).
 
Indeed, 39% of Connecticut's households are locked into a "new normal" of perpetual financial insecurity, unable to build the savings needed to last even three months in the event of an emergency. The research, reflected in CFED's 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, also found that state policies are doing little to improve the financial security of Connecticut residents.
 
The situation is most dire for households of color. African-American and Latino households in Connecticut are significantly more likely to live below the federal poverty line compared to white households. Even more startling, new data show that businesses owned by whites in Connecticut are valued almost 15 times higher than businesses owned by African-American residents.
 
Published annually, the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans' ability to save and build wealth, stay out of poverty and create a more prosperous future. This year's Scorecard assesses all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 61 outcome measures spanning five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education. It also ranks the states on 69 policies that promote financial security. When it comes to outcomes, Vermont ranks at the top of the country overall, while Mississippi ranks last.
 
Connecticut's 23rd -place outcome ranking improved slightly from last year's 27th -place ranking. The state received a "B" in Financial Assets & Income, driven by a low income poverty rate, a high rate of households with savings accounts and a low rate of underbanked households-those which have bank accounts but still use high-cost non-bank alternatives such as payday loans. Unfortunately, the state is one of the worst when it comes to income inequality-the richest 20% of households in Connecticut make 5.1 times as much annually as the poorest 20%. The state received an "F" in Housing & Homeownership due to its high foreclosure rate (3.06%) and its disparities in homeownership by race and income. The homeownership rate for white households in Connecticut is twice that of households of color, and the homeownership rate among households in the top income quintile is 2.8 times higher than for that homeownership rate for households in the bottom income quintile. The state received an "A" in Health Care, due in part to having one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country (8.0%). Connecticut earned an "A" in Education, driven by its second-best rate of early childhood education enrollment (64.6%). Finally, CFED Connecticut earned a "D" in Businesses & Jobs, meaning residents don't have access to quality job and business opportunities.
 
 The Scorecard also evaluates 69 different policy measures to determine how well states are addressing the challenges facing their residents. Connecticut ranks third overall in policy adoption, having adopted 36 of the 69 policies assessed. It is the third-best state when it comes to Education policies, partly because of its adequate funding for K-12 and postsecondary education. Connecticut ranks 5th in Financial Assets & Income, thanks to its refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, consumer protections for small-dollar lending and legislation that allows financial institutions to operate prize-linked savings accounts. The state ranks slightly lower, but still in the top ten, for Housing & Homeownership policies (7th) and Health Care policies (7th). Connecticut ranks 6th in the area of Businesses & Jobs, having implemented half of assessed policies in this area (5 of 10).
 
Across the nation, the Scorecard found scant evidence that federal and state governments were willing to embrace policies that would open new doors to greater financial security for those struggling the most in the American economy. Without such commitments, most low-income individuals-particularly people of color-find themselves falling farther behind.
 
Among the key findings from this year's Scorecard:
  • Homeownership rates remain at historic lows, falling to 63.1% for the eighth consecutive year of decline and contributing to crowding and rising costs in the rental market.
  • Fully 14.3% of adults say there was a time in the past year that they needed to see a doctor but could not because of cost. The statistics are worse for individuals of color with one in four Latino adults and one in five African-American adults saying money concerns prevented them from seeing a doctor.
  • Although both high school graduation rates (82.3%) and four-year college degree attainment (30.1%) increased from 2013 to 2014, racial disparities remain severe. Less than 20% of AfricanAmerican adults and fewer than 15% of Latino adults hold four-year degrees.
  •  While the national unemployment rate has dropped to 5%, the underemployment rate is twice as high, at 10.8%. What's more, one-in-four jobs is in a low-wage occupation.
  • Building up even a small amount of savings is a challenge for almost half the country. Some 44% of households are "liquid asset poor," meaning they have less than three months of savings to live at the poverty level if they suffer an income loss.
  • Business ownership among both men and women (21.4% and 17.1% of the labor force, respectively) declined from 2007 to 2012, even as average business value for both groups increased. Yet female-owned businesses still are worth only a third the value of the average male-owned business-$239,486 to $726,141, respectively.
 "There certainly are positive signs that the nation's economy is improving," noted Andrea Levere, President of CFED. "But there also is very compelling evidence that many households are stuck in a financial hole and are struggling to dig themselves out. State governments can play a critical role in helping them move on to firmer ground and a more prosperous future."
 
To read an analysis of key findings from the 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, click here. To access the complete Scorecard, visit http://scorecard.cfed.org.

A family in need - and an opportunity to succeed

 
 
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We work for people like Sasha.
 
Sasha is a young mom who enrolled in Even Start, a program that creates opportunities for vulnerable children and their parents together. Sasha signed up for classes to receive her equivalency diploma, while her newborn, Janelle, was placed in an accredited early care classroom, located in the same adult ed center.
 
Even Start is a two-generation program, an innovative approach to social services that seeks helping families as a whole, not as separate pieces. We know that helping a mother look for a job, get her GED or enroll in college is not enough if she cannot take care of her kids. We know that educating children in great early care programs is less effective if their parents cannot find a job to provide them with a stable home. Two generation programs strive to help families succeed by providing both children and their caretakers with the supports they need to become successful, instead of having programs working in isolation.
 
CAHS is helping lead the charge for such innovative "two generation" approaches to break the cycle of poverty by moving children and their parents toward educational success and economic security.
 
We are doing it because families like Sasha´s cannot wait.
Next year, CAHS and our allies will work to improve and implement two generation programs in Connecticut, helping families become self sufficient. We have done this in the past, with the state Earned Income Tax Credit, and with an early care and education system that has made Connecticut a national leader.
But to make it happen, we need your support. With your help, we can continue to create pathways for a brighter future for Connecticut's children and families.  Your support keeps us working every day-we couldn't do it without you.  Your contribution will empower Connecticut families to thrive.  Together, we can ensure that thousands of families achieve their potential and live fuller and happier lives.
 

Please click here undefined to contribute - or visit our website to learn more about CAHS and send your donation.

Thanks for your support.

A big thank you to our CT Money School volunteers!

On November 17 CAHS was proud to host a very special meeting in our new offices: an event to recognize the contributions of our great CT Money School Volunteers.

CAHS launched the CT Money School in 2009, and since the start the program has relied on the contributions and expertise of hundreds of volunteers willing to share their time, experience and knowledge to help others become self-sufficient. You can learn more about the CT Money school here, or even sign up here if you want to volunteer. For everyone else, here are some photos of the event - you can see the full gallery at CT Money School Facebook page

 

 

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At Middlesex, talk on remedial education reform

This past Monday CAHS presented our latest report on remedial education "Transitional College Readiness Programs in Connecticut: Adult Educators as Partners" at Middlesex Community College, in Middletown.

This new report focuses on an innovative new model to address remedial education for transitional students, those that test at 8th grade or below in their placement test. A set of new programs have brought together community colleges and adult education providers to work together to provide remedial education, using a variety of new strategies that combine support services, personalized instruction, software-based solutions and innovative teaching tools. Ren Brockmeyer and Roger Senserrich, the main authors of the report, were at hand to present the findings (slides on their presentation here).

 

 

After discussing the report, a panel with Dr. Steve Minkler, Dean of Academic Affairs at Middlesex, Dr. Diane Clare-Kearney, Director of Manchester Adult and Continuing Education, and Fred Silbermann, Program Facilitator for Meriden Adult Education, joined the authors to discuss their experiences implementing the new programs. Following the panel, the attendees participated in table discussions on how Connecticut can create new pathways to success for non-conventional students.

The main conclusion of both experts and attendees is that the new reform has shown some very promising results where community colleges and adult education providers worked together to deliver remedial classes. Building new partnerships, however, has proved challenging.

The full report is available for download here.


Invite fairness to the table

Better Choices for Connecticut press release

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Governor Malloy has invited the Democratic and Republican Leadership to meet about a predicted revenue shortfall, but apparently the only options to be discussed are more cuts. We call on the Governor and the legislature to invite fairness to the table by examining ways to achieve a fairer and more efficient revenue system.

Addressing revenue shortfalls with only more cuts is not fair. Continued cuts will negatively affect all of Connecticut’s families and children who need essential services, people with disabilities and the elderly who need caring services, schools that need good teachers, and communities that need public safety. If our revenue projections are off, it is certainly not because the richest half a percent among us are struggling, or because our largest and most profitable businesses can’t afford to pay their share. Let’s seek additional contributions from
those very fortunate few who have ability and means to pay.

We all want a government that works well and programs that provide the essential public structures upon which our economy and communities depend such as clean air and water, good schools, public safety and care for our most vulnerable. We are the richest state in the union, and yet for decades we have tolerated waiting lists in some of our most basic public services, and inadequate investments in our futures. Indeed, over the years, these programs have already
sustained hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts.

When we miss our revenue forecasts by less than 1% -- as the Administration is indicating here – the first place we look should not be these important programs. Instead, we should look first at addressing a system where working and middle class families pay almost twice the effective rate in state and local taxes than the richest among us do, and we should ask those richest to pay a little more. And such principles of fairness should apply not just to individual taxes, but to
business taxes as well. Our revenue structure should ask our largest and most profitable businesses to pay their fair share, and we should do so in way that is fair to small businesses and good for our economy.

More cuts mean still more pain for all of us, and threaten the futures of our families and our communities. Let’s not leave fairness off the table. There are better choices.

Better Choices is a statewide coalition working to help lawmakers make smarter decisions about the state’s imbalanced revenue system. Members include nonprofit providers, labor, community, faith, environment, and advocacy organizations.



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