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Hello Advocate,

After yesterday's first meeting of the Budget Conference Committee, when six legislators gathered to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of HB 153, there is even more urgency to reach out to policy makers about services for Ohio's most vulnerable.

Can you take five minutes to call (click here for contact list, phone numbers and a new message) or email members of the committee, legislative leadership, and the Governor?

Based on revised revenue and Medicaid caseload projections, the Conference Committee expects to have no new revenue to appropriate. No new money to prioritize for health, human service, and early care & education programs. No new money to fill the gaping holes in emergency food assistance, behavioral health, long-term care, early childhood, developmental disabilities, or child welfare.

Throughout the budget debate, politicos expected rosier economic predictions to offer legislators new money to plug into the budget. Sadly, as Advocates for Ohio's Future and our partners have been suggesting for months, the outlook for Ohio is grim. Wages are stagnant, unemployment remains high, gasoline and food prices are still up. The state's Budget Director, Tim Keen, acknowledged as much yesterday, pointing to national and international factors that suggest Ohio will not return to prosperity in the next two years.

Advocates for Ohio's Future believes that this is all the more reason to shore up Ohio's safety net for vulnerable children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities. One bit of good news from yesterday is that the state is expected to end the current fiscal year on June 30 with a $187 million surplus. Keen recommended using that money to replenish the Rainy Day Fund -- certainly a smart move and a hallmark of good governance.

We are asking you to help us persuade policy makers to designate $37 million -- or 20 percent of the surplus -- for health, human service, and early care & education programs. Restoring the Rainy Day Fund makes sense, but for nearly one in three Ohioans who live at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, the rain is already falling. We need to invest a portion of this money into services for people who are struggling -- and who will continue to struggle -- through this long recession.

Please take five minutes to call or email key leaders, and tell them:

Economic projections for the next two years suggest that life won't be getting any easier for vulnerable Ohioans who have been struggling because of unemployment, wage stagnation, and high fuel and food prices. These Ohioans need health, human service, and early care & education programs -- and the vital workforce supports they provide -- to endure the continuing recession. Please set aside $37 million (which is 20 percent of this year's surplus) to support critical programs for children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Thank you for taking time to advocate during this last push for a budget that gives our neighbors, friends, and family a lifeline through these tough times. Please send this message near and far to human service supporters in your network or community!

To stay on our mailing list but opt out of daily messages during the Conference Committee debate, just click here.

Scott Britton,