Before COVID-19, Children’s Funding Project was preparing to assist a dozen communities in pursuit of November ballot measures focused on tax increases for kids. Amazingly, we have seen two successes since COVID began, an Anchorage, AK alcohol tax for early childhood and a Cuyahoga County, OH property tax increase for children’s services. However, the landscape has certainly changed as states and localities adapt to unforeseen challenges. This post is the third in a series on how communities can use the four CFP levers (Find, Align, Generate, and Activate) to strategically pivot their approaches to funding programs and services for children and youth. If you missed the “Find” and “Align” posts, be sure to check those out.

Today, we are focusing on “Generate.” In the last few weeks, the federal government has demonstrated its capacity to immediately generate and dole out resources to address the fallout of COVID-19 (see the latest version of Children’s Funding Project’s Emergency Funding Guide to learn more about the federal stimulus packages and their flexibilities). When there is a need, the country can find a way to meet it if enough pressure is applied. How can we continue to apply this pressure and lay the groundwork for future investment? Consider taking these concrete action steps over the next two years:

Generate: ‘We have big gaps in our federal, state, and local funding for children and youth. How do we generate resources at a time when they are even more critical, yet harder to come by?”

Short term (1 month)
  • Appeal to parents and the public about the value of the professionals that work with their children. Conduct a poll to determine whether your measure is still viable (note Anchorage and Cuyahoga!). Use Ballotpedia to understand changing state and local election rules.
  • Advocate for a federal bailout of the childcare industry. More than the airline, auto or hospitality industries, childcare providers and other nonprofits that serve our kids have few reserves and were struggling even prior to the pandemic due to insufficient investment. But don’t stop there, lobby state and local legislatures for emergency childcare funding to supplement federal emergency funding.
Midterm (within 6 months)
  • Think big. Now is not the time for piecemeal solutions. Treat this juncture as a clean slate and an opportunity to communicate the full cost of serving children and youth.
  • Lobby state legislatures to enable localities to use more progressive taxation options. It is critical that we think beyond the ‘go-to moves’ of sales and property taxes and look toward more innovative taxing mechanisms and other financing strategies.
  • Consider commissioning a poll to better understand where the public stands on revenue options and the importance of children’s services. See here for a guide on how to do so.
  • Start building a coalition of policymakers, business leaders, faith leaders, and other key community stakeholders that unifies around the message that federal, state, local and private resources must work together to fill gaps in funding for children and youth.
Long term (within 1-2 years)
  • Mount local and state ballot measures to raise revenue to fill gaps in funding for childcare, afterschool, and other child and youth services.
  • Ensure that any big ‘New Deal style’ physical infrastructure investments are tied to parallel social infrastructure investments.
  • Incorporate lessons learned from the COVID-19 fallout and make sure that any ballot measure or other strategic financing measure accounts for future emergencies and economic downturns. Stay tuned to CFP’s social channels for a guide on campaigning for, reauthorizing, and maintaining a children’s fund during economic recessions.

States and localities will be increasingly financially strapped by the COVID-19 crisis; we must come together to keep children, youth, and the people who care for them in the forefront of decision-making and budget allocation. Working toward a local dedicated fund is still worth it, perhaps now more than ever. We have heard from several existing dedicated fund managers that their fund’s resources and infrastructure have been invaluable to their community’s ability to serve children, youth, and providers during this challenging time. Don’t be deterred and don’t delay!

Elizabeth Gaines is CEO of Children’s Funding Project.