This week the Legislature unveiled its budgets. As you know, the State has seen a large influx of revenues and federal COVID dollars which allowed Legislators to increase investments to support many important programs, services, and general state needs.

Combined with investments from their Capital Budgets, the Legislature has targeted the immediate shelter needs of the state’s homeless population and new affordable housing programs with more than $600 million dedicated to these purposes. This includes, but is not limited to, the rapid acquisition and conversion of property for emergency shelters, the provision of transitional, youth, and permanent supportive housing, and moving those from unsanctioned encampments into more permanent housing solutions. They also provide for increased rates for individuals providing these services.

The Senate specifically provides a small increase in rates for those providing services with individuals with developmental disabilities (I/DD). While the increase is not as much as we requested, it is a small step in the right direction.

In fact, the budget also includes a study of the rates for these services to provide us with support for next Session when we return to ask for the rates these providers deserve.

There are also investments that target the behavioral health sphere by providing over $300 million toward behavioral health programs, targeting workforce recruitment and retention. This includes things like provider rate increases and crisis, outreach, and diversion services.

The Senate provided counties with sufficient funding to address Blake cases into the next biennium. The budget rolls over the dollars provided for resentencing and vacations, as requested. It also establishes a legal and financial obligations (LFO) pool within the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) with $70 million. With the LFO pool, AOC will establish a direct reimbursement process so that counties are no longer responsible for cutting the checks. This is preferable to what the House set forth in its budget. The House merely rolled over both the resentencing and LFO amounts from last year. It does not allow for AOC to directly reimburse impacted individuals.

The Senate also provides money to courts to, in part, help cushion the impact of the pandemic. Money is put toward the provision of pro tem judges and backlog coordinators, audio/visual upgrades in courtrooms, therapeutic courts, and general COVID-19 impact expenses. The House provides some money for courthouse security.

From here on out we must work out the nitty-gritty details, and determine how to ensure what we want is included in the final budget.