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Friday, May 22, 2009

This post contains corrected numbers.

Deep cuts in state budgets during a recession can have a significant harmful impact on the economy. In recognition of this fact, the federal government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which includes significant fiscal aid to Washington State.

The recently enacted state budget relies heavily on ARRA funding to partially offset the effects of cuts in health care, education, public safety, and economic security.*

Health care**
The largest component of federal stimulus funding is an increase in federal funding for Medicaid, the primary source of public health insurance for lower income families. The increased federal contribution allows lawmakers to cut state spending on health care without reducing total funding for the program. Washington State is expected to receive $1.8 billion in Medicaid funding from ARRA.

However, the state budget does not take full advantage of ARRA funding for Medicaid because it cuts too deeply. Examples of cuts that cause a loss of federal money include:

  • A $33 million cut in reimbursements for providers of Medicaid and SCHIP managed care services will result in a loss of $44 million in federal money, more than doubling the total size of the cut.
  • A $38 million cut in nursing home rates results in a loss of $56 million in federal funds.
  • An $18 million cut in reimbursements for pediatric services results in a $25 million loss in federal funds.

Another component of ARRA is the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which provides flexible funding for education and other programs. In education, this fund is being used to partially offset devastating cuts in three areas:

  • $176 million for levy equalization, which assists property-poor school districts that have difficulty raising sufficient property taxes to fund local schools.
  • $562 million for a voter-approved (I-728) initiative that provides funding to school districts for quality improvements such as class size reduction, extended learning, early learning, or professional development.
  • $81 million for higher education institutions.

Public Safety
The remainder of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund ($182 million) is appropriated to the Department of Corrections to offset cuts in public safety and rehabilitation programs.

Economic Security
ARRA also expands federal support for the state’s WorkFirst program, which provides temporary assistance to families with very low incomes. During the recession, the need for WorkFirst has grown significantly. TANF contingency funds ($193 million) is intended to help pay for the increased need. Another $12 million is made available to assist in the state’s child support collection program.

* ARRA also included significant fiscal relief that does not directly impact the near-general fund budget.
** Separately from ARRA, Washington State will benefit from the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which enhances federal support of state efforts to insure lower income children.

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