Our Federal Government handles many pressing issues – from foreign affairs to the environment to the economy. So where do kids fit into the picture? And what does that Washington have to do with what happens in Washington state?
The answer is a lot, which is why we sent our federal staffer to Washington D.C. last week to advocate for kids. What happens in the halls of Congress helps shape what programs are and aren’t funded in our state.
While in Washington D.C., our federal staffer attended a Children’s Budget Summit put on by First Focus. First Focus, along with Voices for America’s Children and other national organizations, keep kids’ needs front and center. At the summit, we learned that children make up less than 10% of the federal budget. We also learned that without the funding from President Obama’s recovery package, this year’s spending on kids would be less than 8 percent of the federal budget, which is below what it was 5 years ago. These facts make the strong advocacy work that you and other kids’ activists do all the more crucial.
We met separately with Representatives McDermott and Smith – who both agree that children should learn from “cradle to career,” have the best health care, and should never feel the pangs of hunger. We also met with staff members from Senators Murray and Cantwell’s offices and staffers from Representatives McMorris Rodgers, Inslee, Baird, and Dicks to encourage them to make kids a priority.
We know that tough times inspire tougher advocacy. We’re paying special attention to three federal issues critical for kids in Washington state. The first is the federal matching program (FMAP) for our children’s health coverage program – Apple Health for Kids. Latest news tells us the Senate may try to pass an extension of the program after the August recess.
We are also advocating for Child Nutrition Reauthorization – the program that puts healthy food in front of kids during school and throughout the summer. It is also likely to hit the House floor after the August recess.
Finally, we’re advocating for early learning programs that help prepare kids for success. On Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations considered legislation funding programs, including child care and Head Start. We saw a $700 million increase for child care grants - the largest increase since 2000 -- and an $866 million increase for Head Start. In these tough economic times it is a big win for young children to receive an increase in child care and Head Start funding!
Kids need to be at the forefront of our lawmakers’ minds when they are writing bills – both in Washington state and in Washington, D.C. Stay tuned for opportunities to tell your story and make a difference in DC!
-Katie Hewitt, Federal Advocacy Assistant