Governor Tony Evers announced on February 9 that his 2021-23 biennial budget will include major investments in childcare for kids and families, and in caregiving for aging and older adults and individuals with disabilities. The initiative is designed to help support Wisconsin families and caregivers, and ensure high-quality care for Wisconsin’s most vulnerable residents.

Governor Evers is proposing a nearly $106 million investment of new funds over the biennium for an initiative totaling $140 million designed to address quality, affordability, access, and equity for children both in Shares and unsubsidized childcare. The proposal invests in infant and toddler care by providing regulated childcare providers with grant opportunities based on percentage of infant and toddlers served, ages of Shares and non-Shares children, and star level.

“Caring for our loved ones — from our kids to aging and older adults — should be affordable and accessible to every family, whether it’s having childcare so you can go to work or taking care of your kid, parent, or grandparent,” said Governor Evers. “Investing in childcare, caregiving, and long-term care is as much a moral issue as it is an economic one. This pandemic has laid bare lack of access and affordability in the systems we use to support the people we care about. We have to do more to make sure families have quality, affordable childcare, that we’re strengthening our caregiving workforce, and investing in long-term care. These areas will be critical to our state’s economic comeback.”

At least half of total monthly payments under the proposal are required to be allocated towards staff salaries and benefits. Finally, up to 10 percent of these funds will be directed towards developing 2 pilot programs in childcare deserts to create a sustainable path towards accessibility. Additionally, the governor’s budget proposes: Investing more than $3 million in funding for early childhood social emotional training and technical assistance; expanding the 53206 Early Care and Education Initiative, a successful pilot grant program established in the 2019-21 budget to support access to high-quality childcare for families, to adjacent zip codes; a $500,000 annual TANF increase for the REWARD program for childcare workers; allowing individuals to use FMLA leave when their childcare provider is closed; and helping Wisconsinites with the cost of childcare by creating a nonrefundable credit equal to a percentage of the federal child and dependent care credit while eliminating the current law subtraction for child and dependent care expenses, which is based on the qualifying expenditures under the federal credit.

In 2019, Governor Evers established the Governor’s Task Force on Caregiving. Governor Evers’ 2021-23 budget delivers on a dozen policy recommendations proposed by the Governor’s Task Force on Caregiving and invests more than $600 million in Wisconsin’s long-term care infrastructure, the direct care workforce, and family caregivers. The proposal includes investing in Wisconsin’s long-term care infrastructure by: providing an 11.5% increase to nursing home rates in FY22 and an additional 11.7% increase in FY23, investing more than $240 million over the biennium; creating a pilot of a software platform that allows for a one-stop shop for everyone in the caregiving industry to find one another to match service providers with those seeking services; directing DHS to develop a statewide minimum rate band that establishes equitable and sustainable rates for home and community-based long-term care supports; and providing additional funding to support the Office of Caregiver Quality, which helps to ensure Wisconsinites have access to high quality caregiving services.

Strengthening the caregiving workforce would include: allocating more than $77 million of the previously mentioned $240 million investment in nursing homes to the direct care cost center of the nursing home rate to support the caregiver workforce; providing an $77 million over the biennium to support personal care services, a broad range of services that are necessary to maintain the individual in his or her place of residence in the community; providing an additional $77 million in funding to increase the direct care and services portion of the Medicaid capitation rates in Family Care, a Medicaid program that provides long-term care services to older adults and adults with physical, developmental, or intellectual disabilities, to provide additional financial support to direct care workers; developing a pilot program to identify standards of practice for training options within the caregiving industry, including a career ladder leading toward CNA certification; and allowing direct support professionals to disregard a portion of their income related to caregiving without losing eligibility to the Wisconsin Shares childcare subsidy program through the Department of Children and Families.

Supporting family caregivers would include: investing over $200 million to support family caregiving by creating a Caregiving Tax Credit that provides up to a $500 credit for qualified caregiving expenses; providing additional funding for Aging and Disability Resource Centers, expands the dementia care specialist program statewide, expands the tribal aging and disability resources specialist program, the tribal disability benefit specialist program, and extends caregiver support services to address the needs of caregivers of adults with disabilities who are age 19 to 59; funding expansion of the Alzheimer’s Family Caregiving Support program which provides assistance to low and middle income families throughout the state that have a family member who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another related memory disorder; creating a pilot Tailored Caregiver Assessment and Referral (TCARE) program for family caregivers to provide evidence-based care management protocols designed to support family caregivers of adults with chronic or acute health conditions; allowing family caregivers to use Wisconsin FMLA leave for those with chronic conditions for caregiving responsibilities and expand the list of individuals covered to include grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings; providing funding to support a Family and Guardian Training Program as well as additional Ombudsmen positions at the Board of Aging and Long-Term Care; ensuring that all eligible children receive service under the Children’s Long-Term Support waiver program, providing long-term services to children with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities, and severe emotional disturbances; and establishing requirements and standards for hospitals relating to caregivers when discharging patients.