Advocates in Texas have successfully defeated proposed cuts to Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) respite care services. Restoring these funds will ensure that the 2,000 families that use these services annually still have access to assistance during a time of increased need due to the stresses of COVID-19.
The cuts were part of the governor’s call for all departments to cut spending by 5% from their current year budgets (with some exceptions). When releasing the proposal, the Health and Human Services Commission said that they were prioritizing short-term mortality over long-term health benefits.
In the weeks following the proposal, early childhood advocates in Texas, including our allies at Texans Care for Children, responded quickly to make the case that ECI respite services are essential to many families and that there is an even greater need now as families struggle with additional stressors such as such as job loss, decreased income, loss of healthcare, housing instability, and lack of child care.
Texans Care for Children worked with advocates including Disability Rights Texas, Easterseals of Central Texas, Coalition for Texans with Disabilities, and other allies on this letter to legislators detailing the importance of respite care and its efficacy as a targeted child abuse prevention strategy. Advocates also gathered stories of families who have benefited from respite care and worked with media outlets to include these stories in their reporting on the budget cuts, including this Spectrum News piece.
“This is an important step forward. We’re very grateful to HHSC, our partners, including those at the Alliance for Early Success, and everyday Texans who joined with us to stop these proposed cuts,” said Stephanie Rubin, CEO at Texans Care for Children.
Although advocates are celebrating the preservation of ECI respite funding, the call for budget cuts is ongoing. The newest proposal from HHSC includes threats to needed health services and program administration, including reducing staff positions focused on eligibility and enrollment for health services, and cuts to child care oversight and safety inspection services.
“We will continue working with state leaders and partners to stop the health cuts outlined in the new proposal and to ensure that cuts for kids and families are not on the table during the upcoming legislative session. Given the challenges that families and communities were facing before the pandemic — and the way the pandemic and jobs crisis have exacerbated those challenges — we must fully fund these critical programs and use other available tools to resolve the state’s revenue shortfall,” said Rubin.