After a long - and at times contentious - process, the Virginia General Assembly finally approved a $117 billion budget and Governor Northam has signed it. In addition to expanding the Medicaid program, which will provide access to healthcare for an estimated 400,000 Virginians and give the Commonwealth the opportunity to receive hundreds of millions in federal funding through the Affordable Care Act, the new budget will invest in public schools, higher education, mental health, and other important public services.
There’s so much in the budget to sift through (the final document is 591 pages), here’s a breakdown of what the new budget means for millennials:
Increased Investment in Financial Aid
The new budget provides an increase of $29.3 million in need-based financial aid, one of the largest increases in a decade.
The Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) award will also increase to $3,350 in Fiscal Year 2020 and undergraduate students pursuing a career in teaching will receive an additional $500 in their senior year.
Open Textbook Program
In the past year, the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) piloted a program to offer open and affordable course content to Virginia students. The budget provides funding to expand the program and provide significant statewide and individual student savings through shared access to quality, open, and affordable educational resources.
The new budget also provides major investments in research and development at Virginia’s universities including a new initiative called CyberX aimed at building entrepreneurship programs and developing educational programming at a new cyber-security hub in Northern Virginia.
Millennial educators and state employees will see an increase in their paychecks. The new budget includes the state share of a 3% salary increase for K-12 employees (eff. July 1, 2019) and a 2% salary increase to state employees and university faculty and classified staff (eff. June 10, 2019) and for state-supported local employees (state share; eff. July 1, 2019). This includes direct care staff at state behavioral health facilities, corrections officers, marine police, and deputy sheriffs. There are also funds allocated for state workers with at least 3 years of service to receive a 2% merit raise.
Mental Health Funding
The budget adds $189 million for behavioral health and developmental services, including $84.1 million for community mental health services and $67 million to expand services for people with developmental disabilities.
Through the budget, the Medicaid program has been expanded to provide healthcare coverage to low-income individuals who were not automatically eligible for Medicaid. These are typically people who are non-disabled, childless adults (though some parents are eligible) who earn less than 138% of the poverty line. This is about $16,000 for an individual and $28,000 for a family of three. Extended coverage begins next January. To find out more about eligibility click below!
About the Author
Gerica Goodman is the Policy Director for Virginia21 and is responsible for managing, directing, and executing Virginia21’s advocacy efforts. Prior to joining Virginia21, she worked in the College of Business at Virginia Tech and in enrollment management and development at George Mason University. She has also worked as a management consultant supporting various nonprofits to improve their communications and fundraising programs. Gerica holds a Master’s in Public Administration and Bachelor of Science in Psychology from George Mason University. She also studied abroad at the University of Fribourg in Fribourg, Switzerland. Gerica is originally from Suffolk, VA and currently resides in Richmond, VA.