Ohio urged to spend surplus on children, pregnant women (The Toledo Blade)

By: Jim Provance Access article


With Ohio’s tax coffers overflowing despite the pandemic, advocates are urging lawmakers to invest more heavily into ensuring that under-served children and their mothers get healthier starts.


“Ohio is beating revenue projections,” said Tracy Najera, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, part of the 23-organization Ohio Children’s Budget Coalition. “However, many individuals, especially in the lower rungs of our economic levels, aren’t doing well, and many of them weren’t doing well before the pandemic either.”


The coalition applauds increased spending proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine and retained in the $75 billion version of the two-year budget passed by the House last month. The spending plan is now in the Senate.


A final budget must reach Mr. DeWine’s desk by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.


The coalition urges the Senate to keep — and preferably build on — the proposed expansion of subsidized child-care from 130 percent of the federal poverty level to 138 percent. That would add 2,000 and 2,500 families, respectively, in the next two years.


They hope to keep proposed expansions of programs targeting homeless youth and in-home visits for women during their pregnancies and the first few years of the child’s life to fight Ohio’s disproportionately high maternal and infant mortality numbers, particularly among Blacks.


The budget currently holds $1.9 million more over the next biennium for in-home visits, expanding the number of families served by 500. But the coalition seeks to double that in the Senate.


The coalition also seeks expanded postpartum coverage from 60 days to a year under Medicaid to eligible women earning up to 200 percent of the poverty level.


“Tragically in Ohio, birthing mothers and babies are dying at an alarming rate,” said Kelsey Hopkins, policy associate with Groundwork Ohio. “Between 2008 and 2016, pregnancy-related deaths in Ohio occurred at a ratio of 14.7 per 100,000 live births. Of these pregnancy-related deaths, well over half of them, or 57 percent, were considered preventable.”


Black pregnant women and infants in Ohio are 2.5 times more likely to die compared with whites.


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