Speak together and be heard

Policy makers are critical partners in promoting health, education, workforce development, and human services, so we actively engage, help educate, and advocate for good policy. And when you add your voice to our chorus, you make us that much louder and that much more effective.

Join Us Monday, May 13

From Impact to Advocacy:
Session's Over, Now What?

Monday, May 13, 2024
11:30- 1:00 pm
Metro United Way
Lunch will be provided

Metro United Way 2024 Public Policy Agenda

Metro United Way recognizes that systemic change and lasting impact require a pairing of powerful programming and transformative policy making. Elected officials and administrative leaders are critical partners in promoting equity and opportunity for all people in the areas of education, economic mobility, and health, and as such, Metro United Way actively engages in public policy efforts.

The range of issues affecting our priorities is vast. To be effective, Metro United Way has a targeted public policy agenda below that has relevancy across our seven-county and two-state region.

View our 2024 Kentucky Public Policy Agenda HERE and our 2024 Indiana Public Policy Agenda HERE or by clicking the images below.

       

 

Thriving Kids Addressing systemic challenges to ensure high-quality education

Metro United Way advocates to…

  • Increase availability of affordable, high-quality early childhood education programs through public-private partnerships.
  • Attract, prepare, support, and retain a qualified, diverse early childhood workforce including addressing compensation and benefits.
  • Ensure all families can access evidence-based home visiting and parent support programs.
  • Enhance accessibility to high-quality out-of-school-time programming and dropout prevention and recovery.

 

Strong Households Creating pathways out of poverty to prosperity

Metro United Way advocates to…

  • Support greater access to safe and affordable housing, including all aspects of housing costs.
  • Work with industry leaders and lawmakers to identify and implement policies that prevent evictions.
  • Improve pathways to prosperity by fortifying short-term safety net programs, eliminating abrupt program exits, and streamlining application and renewal processes based on lived experiences.
  • Implement equitable, commonsense reforms to reduce financial barriers, increase pretrial services, and promote successful reentry from the judicial system.
  • Connect justice-involved children to family-focused services and prevent youth from entering and persisting in the justice system.

 

Equitable Community Ensuring zip code doesn’t determine destiny

Metro United Way advocates to…

  • Improve access to reliable, quality healthcare programs and services.
  • Expand access to paid leave programs that support families, the workforce, and economy.
  • Leverage service referral technology to meet needs and increase connectivity and efficiency among providers.
  • Allow Kentucky voters to empower local governments to invest in regional needs by modernizing the Commonwealth’s Constitution.

 

Nonprofit Sector Empowering nonprofits to continue meeting critical community needs

Metro United Way advocates to…

  • Promote tax policy that fuels community solutions through nonprofits and encourages philanthropic giving.
  • Protect nonprofits’ right to advocate for their missions and civic participation on a non-partisan basis.

2024 STATE LEGISLATIVE OUTCOMES

A MESSAGE FROM OUR PRESIDENT & CEO

At Metro United Way, we know that what policy has built, programming alone cannot transform. By advocating for local, state, and federal policy changes, we can create lasting systemic changes that address the root causes of social and economic issues. Our work in advocacy and policy complements our impact initiatives and investments, and enables us to maximize our impact by supporting thriving kids, strong households, and equitable communities.

During this year’s state legislative sessions, we saw a significant focus on some of Metro United Way’s top policy priorities. Kentucky’s historic investment in child care, passage of critical legislation to increase access to prenatal care, and expansion of paid family leave are significant milestones that underscore our commitment to supporting strong households and thriving kids. We also saw unhoused Kentuckians gain access to vital identification. In Indiana, lawmakers built on their work from previous sessions with policy changes that will increase access to child care. These achievements would not have been possible without the United Way network in Kentucky and Indiana, our own public policy team, and many partners’ dedication and collaboration.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that we also faced significant challenges during this legislative session that threatened to increase barriers for some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable populations. Legislation that criminalizes homelessness in the Commonwealth and other bills that limit local governments in addressing unique housing needs have posed significant obstacles to our vision of strong households and equitable communities. While we celebrate the momentous investment in child care infrastructure, we also acknowledge that key policies were not included in this funding and that this vital sector will experience hardship in the months to come with the expiration of federal pandemic funding. Despite these setbacks, we know that advocacy is a long game and we will continue to advocate for policies that comprehensively address public safety, affordable housing, and many other barriers that impede our vision of an equitable community.

One of the lessons we continue to learn is the power of coalitions. Our successes have resulted from strong partnerships and collaborative efforts with partners, community leaders, and policymakers. Together, we have demonstrated collective action’s impact on shaping policies and driving positive change.

As we look forward, Metro United Way recognizes that much more needs to be done. This includes increasing our investments and capacity in Southern Indiana and continuing to build the strength of our coalitions. Additionally, in both states, we are committed to engaging in the interim session and advocating for policies that advance our mission and address the pressing needs of our communities.

Thank you for your ongoing support and partnership. We ask you to join us by advocating for creating a region where zip code does not define anyone’s outcome. United, we will continue to make a difference and build a brighter future for all.

All my best,


Adria Johnson
President & CEO | Metro United Way

KENTUCKY PUBLIC POLICY WINS AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

WINS

Child Care Assistance Program Investment
The Kentucky General Assembly included significant investment for child care in House Bill 6 (J. Petrie), the state biennial budget bill, including historic Child Care Assistance Program investments – such as income exclusion which provides free child care for child care providers, increased reimbursement payments for providers to align with federal standards, and support to ease the burden for families whose income rises above the CCAP eligibility threshold.

Employee Child Care Assistance Program
House Bill 6 included funding for the Employee Child Care Assistance Program (ECCAP); the funds will continue the public-private partnership that matches employer contributions for employee child care expenses with state dollars to keep Kentuckians working. At the same time, House Bill 561 (S. Heavrin) made the program permanent.

Funding for Background Checks for Child Care Providers
House Bill 6 included $800,000 of annual funding to cover the cost of mandatory federal background checks for all child care employees. This will enable providers to use their operating budget for other essential expenses.

Child Care Innovation Funding
House Bill 6 also included $2 million in funding for child care innovation. This funding can be used to reimagine child care to meet the needs of families and employers and encourage innovative partnerships and models in this vital sector.

Early Childhood Development Scholarships
Our early child care workforce plays a vital role in our collective prosperity. House Bill 6 funded $2.5 million annually in early childhood development scholarships that allow current child care workers to expand their relevant credentials and skills for working with Kentucky’s children.

Funding for Louisville’s PreK Investment
The Kentucky General Assembly included a dedicated stream of funding for Louisville Metro’s initiative to strengthen early learning facilities and pre-kindergarten quality and access. An estimated $600,000 annually will be invested in Louisville’s Thrive by Five program.

Paid Family Leave Insurance
The passage of Kentucky House Bill 179 (S. Heavrin) allows paid leave insurance products in Kentucky. This will expand access to paid family and/or parental leave for Kentucky employees by making it more affordable and easier for employers to offer it as part of their benefits packages.

 

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Additional Child Care Investment and Innovation
The Horizon Act, Senate Bill 203 (D. Carroll), would have signified a paradigmatic shift in child care while creating a long- term vision to grow capacity and increase quality in this critical sector throughout the Commonwealth. SB203 included funding for policies and programs including increased eligibility threshold for families to qualify for the child care subsidy program, a focus on growing the early childhood workforce, and foundation payments to providers that they could have used to cover essential expenses like staff wages.

Paid Parental Leave for State Employees
Senate Bill 142 (A. Mays Bledsoe) proposed paid parental leave for state employees, including four weeks for birth, adoption, or foster placement and two weeks for kinship placement. As one of the largest employers in the Commonwealth, this legislation would have expanded access to paid parental leave while creating a more competitive environment for attracting the best talent to serve Kentucky.

WINS

Birth Certificates
Access to essential documentation is often the first step on the journey to vitality; the passage of House Bill 100 (S. Witten) allows Kentuckians without a fixed address to receive a copy of their birth certificate, removing a barrier for additional services, housing, and employment.

Supporting Foster Families
The Commonwealth continues to face challenges in the foster care system:
Senate Bill 240 (C. Chambers Armstrong) will expand access to child care assistance for these families.

Maternal Health Access and Data Collection
Senate Bill 74 (S. Funke Frommeyer) establishes a state child and maternal fatality review team. Kentucky ranks 49th in maternal mortality, and this legislation will ensure that future policies to improve outcomes for mothers and infants are informed by better data. SB74 included House Bill 10 (K. Moser), a bicameral, bipartisan legislation that increases access to prenatal care and mental health support for expecting and new parents while ensuring that Kentucky’s youngest children begin life with more opportunities to become thriving kids.

 

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Increasing Options for Birthing Parents
Parents should be able to choose the best birthing options for themselves and their family, and allowing birthing centers in the Commonwealth would achieve this while keeping Kentuckians safe. House Bill 199 (J. Nemes) would allow for the establishment of free-standing birth centers in Kentucky. Additionally, Senate Bill 89 (S. Funke Frommeyer) would have ensured Kentucky Medicaid families could access proven birthing options such as midwifery services.

Keeping People Housed
We must support unhoused individuals and families by focusing on preventive strategies, such as eviction expungement and a utility system that minimizes shutoffs. House Bill 71 (N. Kulkarni) would have established a process for eviction expungement and House Bill 180 (L. Willner) would have created standards for disconnection of public utilities during extreme temperatures.

WINS

Child Care Communities
In 2022, Louisville’s Metro Council passed zoning reform legislation that expanded where child care providers can operate. House Bill 561 (S. Heavrin) builds upon those changes to encourage other localities across Kentucky to do the same.

 

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Justice and Workforce Engagement
When people fulfill their obligations to the judicial system, they should be able to return to the workforce with limited bureaucracy. House Bill 569 (K. Bratcher) and Senate Bill 218 (B. Storm) would have streamlined the expungement process for eligible criminal records, easing barriers for justice-involved individuals to obtain employment and housing, and rebuild their lives.

Decreasing Barriers to the Workforce and Licensure
Upon leaving the justice system, Kentuckians need to fully understand the job opportunities available to them, including which licensed careers they can pursue. House Bill 124 (E. Callaway) would have created a process for applicants to apply to a licensing or hiring board for eligibility before spending time and resources on employment education and training.

The Power of the Vote
Voting is a foundational responsibility for all Americans. Individuals deserve to have their voting rights restored after completing specific sentences. House Bill 566 (K. Herron) would have created a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for certain felony offenses.

Expanding Local Revenue Options
House Bill 14 would have been the first step to empower cities, counties, and localities across the Commonwealth to be able to vote for the constitutional authority to create and diversify local revenue. This flexibility is critical for local governments to have the tools to address their own unique needs and invest in solutions to grow and strengthen their own communities.

 

 

HARMFUL LEGISLATION BLOCKED

  • Bills that would have banned Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs and studies at public universities and have a chilling effect on Kentucky’s progress
  • Bills that would have imposed onerous eligibility requirements and removed thousands of children from Kentucky’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a federally funded program that increases the household food buying power for thousands of Kentuckian families

INDIANA POLICY WINS

While 2024 was a non-budget session for Indiana, legislators met the moment and continued to address the state’s child care crisis. Lawmakers focused on policy changes to streamline child care regulations and increase support for child care workers. Most notably, Senate Bill 2 (E. Charbonneau) will expand eligibility for child care subsidies for early childhood educators.

In the 2023 budget session, the Indiana General Assembly invested heavily in early childhood education. A new $25 million Employer-Sponsored Child Care Fund was created to encourage employers to offer a range of child care benefits for their employees. Eligibility was also expanded for On My Way Pre-K, the state’s grant-based pre-kindergarten program.

Kentucky’s 2024 Legislative Session Updates

Metro United Way statement on Kentucky Senate Bill 74

(April 15, 2024) Metro United Way applauds the Kentucky General Assembly for their bipartisan passage of Senate Bill 74 to improve maternal and infant outcomes in Kentucky. This critical legislation will expand access to prenatal care and mental health supports for post partum mothers. Further, SB74 will strengthen data collection around maternal and infant mortality to better inform future policies that will improve outcomes for Kentucky families. We are grateful for Representative Moser, Senator Funke Frommeyer, and the bicameral, partisan effort involving many legislators to craft and pass this legislation that will help to create thriving kids and strong households in the Commonwealth.

Link to view Senate Bill 74

 

Metro United Way statement on Kentucky House Bill 199

(March 27, 2024) Metro United Way is thrilled that the Kentucky House of Representatives passed House Bill 199 to allow for the operation of free-standing birth centers in the Commonwealth. Free-standing birth centers offer a midwifery model of care that leads to better outcomes on quality measures for low-risk expecting parents and fewer medical interventions. HB 199 supports thriving kids by providing more birthing and obstetric care options for Kentuckians while maintaining a safe and nurturing environment for mothers and babies, which is critical to improving the Commonwealth’s maternal mortality rate. The birth center model emphasizes relationship-building and patient-centered birth planning and labor, which are important for marginalized populations who frequently report a strong distrust of medical providers. We thank Representative Jason Nemes for sponsoring this legislation that champions Kentucky’s mothers and families.

Link to view House Bill 199

 

Metro United Way statement on Kentucky Senate Bill 6

(March 21, 2024) Kentucky thrives when we embrace both unity and the rich history of diversity within our Commonwealth and our country. However, the changes adopted in Senate Bill 6, which would dismantle DE&I in higher education, will exacerbate divisions, dampen diversity of thought, and jeopardize support for marginalized and underrepresented populations. If passed, this legislation would affect all of Kentucky and undermine the state’s ability to grow and thrive in the future.

To support and empower marginalized communities and increase opportunities for all, there will always be a need to evaluate and improve DE&I work. We should all see this as an opportunity to strengthen what it means to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive. But abandoning these initiatives is not an option if Kentucky wants to build an inclusive, equitable, and prosperous future and economy for all Kentuckians. We urge the Kentucky General Assembly to reject this polarizing legislation and safeguard the fundamental values that define us: united we stand, divided we fall.

Link to view Senate Bill 6

 

Metro United Way statement on Kentucky House Bill 10 and Senate Bill 142

(March 6, 2024) House Bill 10, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, will expand access to prenatal care and mental health support for postpartum mothers, providing a foundation for healthier mothers and babies. HB10 passed the Kentucky House UNANIMOUSLY!

Senate Bill 142, sponsored by Sen. Amanda Mays Bledsoe, creates paid parental leave for state employees as they welcome the addition of a child by birth, adoption, or foster placement. Access to paid parental leave leads to better outcomes for moms and babies, lower rates of postpartum depression, and boosts economic security for households.

Link to view House Bill 10
Link to view Senate Bill 142

 

Metro United Way statement on Kentucky House Bill 561

(February 28, 2024) For Kentucky families, child care continues to be unaffordable and in limited supply, holding back not only those families, but the Commonwealth’s economy. Addressing this workforce barrier requires innovative approaches and leaders. House Bill 561 creates Certified Child Care Communities, encouraging local governments to streamline zoning regulations that will increase child care capacity across in their communities, and across the state. Metro United Way thanks Rep. Samara Heavrin for this thoughtful legislation thoughtful legislation that empowers local communities and employers to strengthen access to affordable child care for all Kentuckians. We appreciate the bipartisan support from the Kentucky House and encourage the Senate to consider and pass this legislation.

Link to view the bill

 

Metro United Way statement in response to Senate Passage of Senate Bill 6

(February 14, 2024) At Metro United Way, DEI transcends mere letters. It is a profound acknowledgment that historical laws, policies, and institutions have, both intentionally and unintentionally, disproportionately affected numerous communities in our country and Commonwealth. Through our strategic partnerships, innovative programs, impactful initiatives, and transformational investments, Metro United Way strives to ensure equitable treatment for every Kentuckian, fostering inclusion on their journey toward realizing the American dream. We are committed to cultivating spaces for open and honest dialogue and learning experiences to build a more united Commonwealth where every individual can flourish, regardless of where they live or how they identify.

Link to view the bill

 

Metro United Way Statement on Kentucky Senate Bill 203

(February 13, 2024) Access to affordable, high-quality early childhood education empowers more Kentuckians to participate in the workforce.

We applaud the introduction of the Horizons Act, which represents a historic investment in Kentucky’s early childhood infrastructure that will maintain affordability for working families, support child care providers and educators, and encourage greater capacity and quality.

Metro United Way is grateful for Sen. Danny Carroll’s leadership in consistently recognizing the pivotal role early childhood education – from birth to kindergarten – plays as economic infrastructure today and as a significant investment in the Commonwealth’s future.

We look forward to working with the senator and his colleagues to ensure these critical workforce investments become law.

Link to view the bill

 

Metro United Way Statement on Kentucky House Passage of House Bill 179

(January 30, 2024) Metro United Way applauds the Kentucky House for passing House Bill 179, making voluntary paid family leave insurance available to Kentucky employers. Studies show that access to paid leave improves outcomes for maternal and infant health, and this legislation enables employers of all sizes to support working families and strengthen households. We are grateful to Rep. Samara Heavrin for continuing to champion Kentucky’s families.

Link to view the bill

 

Metro United Way statement on House committee passage of the Safer Kentucky Act

(January 19, 2024) Kentucky consistently has one of the highest incarceration rates not only in our country but globally, perpetuating a cycle that disproportionately affects communities that are marginalized while also holding back our state’s economy. Legislation that imposes harsher penalties, escalates justice involvement, and imposes harsh penalties falls short of addressing the root causes of criminal behavior and homelessness such as racism, poverty, lack of affordable housing, and mental illness.

While consequences for illegal actions are necessary, evidence shows that harsher penalties do not serve as a deterrent to crime, homelessness, or substance use. A more effective strategy to improve public safety involves finding solutions for the underlying factors driving crime and homelessness which are more affordable and provide exponential dividends to our community as a whole. Instead of perpetuating a system that expands the incarcerated, policymakers should prioritize investments in holistic approaches that support re-entry and economic stability that empower individuals in Kentucky to overcome challenges and cultivate positive transformations. Metro United Way urges lawmakers to focus on comprehensive solutions that will build a safer and stronger society that encourages personal growth and rehabilitation.

Link to view the bill

Indiana’s 2024 Legislative Session Updates

(March 12, 2024) We applaud Indiana lawmakers for focusing on improving access to child care in the 2024 General Assembly. Senate Bill 2 will expand eligibility for child care subsidies for working families, create new kinds of child care centers for underserved communities, and help child care educators find and afford care for their own children. This bi-partisan legislation passed both the House and Senate and now awaits the governor’s signature. Metro United Way is grateful to Indiana lawmakers for recognizing child care as infrastructure!

Learn more here

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Resources

  • Liberation Identification

    A movement to implement a statewide program providing state-issued photo identification to all people leaving incarceration in Kentucky.

    Learn More
  • Update to the Health Impact Assessment of Kentucky’s Child Care Assistance Program:

    Increasing eligibility for Public Pre-Kindergarten Support

    Download
  • Health Impact Assessment of Expungement Policy in Kentucky

    Click to View Assessment
  • Health Impact Assessment of Kentucky’s Child Care Assistance Program

    Download
  • Impact of COVID on KY's Child Care Providers

    Learn More
  • Greater Louisville Project Early Childhood Report

    View Report
  • 2023 State of Metropolitan Housing Report

    Download

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