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Kansas Motion for Kids employees Jesica Herrera Russell, left, and Adrian Olignik welcomed a number of coverage adjustments by the 2022 legislature, however urged lawmakers to look intently on the want for childcare, helpful well being and dietary help for kids. (Tim Carpenter/Reflector KS)

by Tim Carpenter
KS reflector

TOPEKA – Kansas Motion for Kids Adrienne Olejnik is aware of the look of kids who lack a sustainable meals supply, high quality early childhood training, and profit from routine medical care.

Her job required wanting frankly within the eyes of politicians within the 2022 Kansas legislature who’re making selections that have not all the time put these needy children excessive on the agenda regardless of the state’s huge monetary surplus.

“I would really like them to have the conversations they have been neglecting for the previous a number of years,” Olejnik stated on the Kansas Reflector podcast. β€œWe’ve got loads of uninsured kids. A number of kids are going hungry.”

Here is a peek at three statistics that encourage Olejnik: 86,000 beneath six with out licensed baby care, 43,000 with out medical insurance in 2019 earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, and one in six dealing with meals insecurity.

β€œWe’re sitting on this finances surplus, and I do know they need to be a bit cautious and frugal, however they’re fast to take tax cuts on a regular basis, but they’re in no rush to spend money on children. So, if I had a magic wand, I might make them actually take into consideration Their function is in our subsequent era,” stated Olignik, vice chairman of the Kansas Motion Basis for Kids.

KAC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group primarily based in Topeka, works with native organizations, state coverage makers, and different advocates to make a distinction within the lives of kids all through Kansas. Their quest is to construct a nation the place each baby secures the care, training and assets wanted to thrive.

The legislature yearly passes payments geared toward childcare, however the KAC believes lawmakers have typically settled on the established order. The 2022 legislature has voted to maintain a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in reserve funds, which shall be accessible for future investments moderately than having an instantaneous impression.

β€œYou recognize, proper now, households stay β€” not essentially thrive,” stated Jessica Herrera Russell, of Kansas Motion for Kids.

The Home and Senate authorised a discount within the state’s meals gross sales tax from 6.5% to 4% on January 1, 2023. Laws signed by Gov. Laura Kelly, who favored the repeal of the state’s regressive gross sales tax on groceries on July 1, eliminates the state’s portion of the tax Meals gross sales January 1, 2025.

β€œWhen the preliminary cuts truly begin, it’s going to assist … with these elevated prices as a consequence of inflation in groceries,” Russell stated. “I hope this cash will return into the households’ pockets.”

The legislature handed an financial improvement invoice that included increasing the employer tax credit score for childcare. Since 2012, it has been restricted to sure varieties of companies. Henceforth, all varieties of companies will have the ability to unfold credit score to enhance affordability and availability of childcare for his or her employees.

Olejnik stated a wave of organizations and people has appealed to the legislature to amend state legislation to develop entry to a program designed to help employees struggling to safe baby care.

β€œThis is among the successes that this session has introduced us,” Olejnik stated. β€œAny firm can help their staff both by offering on-site childcare, and a few corporations right here in Kansas try this. They’ll additionally subsidize the price of childcare for his or her staff. So, they’ll make a sure degree of contribution to make it inexpensive.”

The legislature refused to develop eligibility for Medicaid to greater than 100,000 Kansans beneath the Inexpensive Care Act. The governor beneficial growth. Polls indicated that the majority Kansans help the extension of KanCare to lower-income households, however resistance amongst some Republican lawmakers remained. They argued that this system is perhaps too costly or that creating a bigger entitlement program was not good for Kansas.

Olejnik stated the state ought to develop the class of Medicaid coated individuals and make investments extra in offering Medicaid companies to individuals with disabilities on ready lists.

The legislature, regardless of Kelly’s veto, authorised a invoice stopping the Democratic governor from shifting ahead with rewriting the $4 billion annual contract with three for-profit insurers that present KanCare companies statewide. This laws was controversial as a result of no particular person, group, firm, or lobbyist had come ahead to say possession of the invoice.

Olejnik stated the state’s present contract with KanCare service suppliers was not restricted as a result of it didn’t require disclosure of necessary details about the supply and high quality of companies to kids.

Nevertheless, the legislature has handed a invoice including Kansas to a brand new federal program that might increase protection of postpartum melancholy by means of Medicaid from the present two months after childbirth to 12 months after childbirth. It was beneficial in January by Kelly, and the Home and Senate included the mandatory language within the state’s new finances.

“We all know that when moms are wholesome, their kids are wholesome,” Russell stated. β€œThey’re on observe to get their healthcare wants met. So, this was actually necessary.”