Pictured from left: Samantha Bond, First 5 Lake Executive Director; Amira Long, Del Norte Executive Director; Maria Patricia Niggle, Executive Director First 5 Marin; Senator Mike McGuire; Star Mohatt, IMPACT Program Coordinator & QRIS First 5 Humboldt; Michelle Fadelli, First 5 Marin Public Policy & Communications Manager; Cathy Tillman, First 5 Trinity Executive Director; Townley Saye, First 5 Mendocino Executive Director (Courtesy Photo).
SACRAMENTO – Hundreds of First 5 leaders from across California, who collectively serve the state’s over one million children and caregivers, gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to call for a one-time $100 million investment to stabilize of various local programs serving children and families amid dwindling tobacco tax revenues that fund these programs. This investment would support the continuation of a broad spectrum of areas, including parenting programs, family resource centers, early childhood mental health services, and child care and early learning programs among others.
Since California voters passed Proposition 31 in 2022 – the flavored tobacco ban – the first 5 programs, funded primarily by tobacco tax revenue, are projected to face a drastic cut of over $400 million in community investments in childhood early in the next five years. To date, over 42 percent of the First 5 have already implemented program cuts this year with 60 percent planning for cuts for the 2024-25 fiscal year that begins July 1.
“Each year, Advocacy Day presents a valuable opportunity for top 5 organizations across the country to gather, share knowledge and engage with our state representatives. For Lake County, we benefit from the support of two dedicated advocates for our youngest residents, Senator McGuire and Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry,” said First 5 Lake County Executive Director Samantha Bond.
“Amidst a tight budget and declining revenues, we faced difficult conversations this year about maintaining our vital county services. It is imperative that our state leaders address funding shortfalls to ensure the continuity of our efforts. One of the outstanding aspects of First 5 Lake County is our role as a community convener, facilitating communication and collaboration between agencies, organizations and community members for effective program implementation. We have 25 years of service to show how vital and valuable we are in our community.
“Failure to secure a short-term, stop-gap investment this year from the state will result in the elimination of even more services and programs that currently support the healthy development of California’s youngest residents, the majority of whom are children of color growing up in low levels. -income families,” said First 5 Association Board President Fabiola González. “While we are also focused on long-term policy solutions, the top 5 in each county cannot afford to see their contributions underestimated or their potential delayed by budget constraints.”
Without this crucial, short-term funding from the state, programs that support tens of thousands of young children — many low-income and children of color — face cuts or immediate elimination. Top 5 leaders believe the cost of banning flavored tobacco should not be borne by California’s infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
“Investing in California’s youngest children must be a priority, even in difficult budget years,” said Avo Makdessian, Executive Director of First 5. “Focusing on our local communities is how we provide long-term solutions to the most pressing issues. pressing issues facing California’s youngest children and families.”
In addition to program impacts, operational reductions in First 5’s 58-county network mean they will struggle to coordinate local early childhood services or serve as contract managers for California Advancing and Innovating (CalAIM) community partners. Medi-Cal) – a lesser known but crucial role played by First 5s in California.
The First 5 Association of California (F5AC) raises the voice of the 58 First 5 counties, created by voters in 1998 to ensure our youngest children are healthy, safe and ready to thrive in school and life. The First 5 Network impacts the lives of more than 1 million children, families and caregivers each year. F5AC advocates for the state’s youngest children, bringing together partners and leveraging funding to improve and grow California’s early childhood programming piloted by county First 5s. Learn more at www.first5association.org