Texas officials drop plan to cut $15M from programs helping low-income women, some parents
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, flanked by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, left, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, speaks during a press conference at the state Capitol about the state's response to the coronavirus on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP) Photo: Nick Wagner, MBR / Associated Press

Texas officials drop plan to cut $15M from programs helping low-income women, some parents

State health officials have pulled back on a plan to cut millions from programs that serve low-income women and parents of children with developmental disabilities, responding to concerns from advocates and lawmakers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health and Human Services Commission said it will restore about $15 million to the programs, which provide direct care. In an updated planning document, it said it can cover the expense with unused funds from fiscal year 2020, which ended last month.

The agency is still proposing about $130 million in cuts for the biennium that ends next September, including reductions to administrative and regulatory functions that impact the programs. Those are part of $380 million in reductions that state leaders have called for to help keep the state afloat amid the health crisis.

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who is helping lead the budget talks with fellow top Republicans — Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Sen. Jane Nelson and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione — said there was especially strong opposition to reducing access to women’s health programs.

“They heard from the governor and myself and the lieutenant governor and Sen. Nelson and Rep. Capriglione that we did not want to see cuts to women’s health, and so they adjusted,” he said.

The agency also plans to restore funding for a program that provides part-time childcare for parents of children with developmental disabilities and other complex medical needs. The program costs the state about $400,000 per year, and advocates say it helps prevent child neglect and abuse.

Advocates said the current plan still creates dangerous delays for children and women who need to access care through state-run programs, and will further weaken oversight at child care facilities.

“We appreciate state leaders taking this step in the right direction, but the new proposal would still cut health services that Texas kids and families need during the pandemic and this jobs crisis,” Texans Care for Children CEO Stephanie Rubin said in a statement.

Bonnen said the Legislative Budget Board, which he co-chairs, will hold hearings later this year that allow for public input on the proposed reductions. Until then, agencies including the health commission appear to be moving forward with many of the cuts as the current fiscal year begins.

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