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Good morning, Advocate,

The Budget Conference Committee is meeting this afternoon and will likely approve a final version of HB 153 today or tomorrow that will then go to the House and Senate floors for a vote on Tuesday.

We know that more money is needed out of the Conference Committee for health, human service, and early care & education programs, but it won't happen unless Statehouse leaders hear from all of us. Will you email or call Statehouse leaders right now? They need to hear that $37 million -- or 20 percent of the $187 million 2011 surplus -- needs to be set aside for vital human services, and this is likely our last chance to make a difference.

Our partners at groundWork sent a letter last week with 1,500 signatures to the Conference Committee and legislative leadership advocating for early childhood supports; groundWork also worked with us to recruit Crystal Young to tell her story at our consumer voices event last week. We wanted to share her story with you today:

Crystal Young is a single mother of three, Mylan, My’leah, and Miracle. Miracle was born six weeks premature and spent two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The Help Me Grow program provided the support that Crystal needed to make sure Miracle would be healthy and strong; Miracle is now a healthy, happy nine-month-old. Crystal recalls how her case manager, Katie, provided her with support to become a better parent, from how to handle My’leah’s “terrible twos” to helping Mylan calm down around his younger sisters. She said, "I am happy to report that all three of my children are right on track developmentally and physically. Help Me Grow has been really important to my family."

Watch Crystal tell her story on YouTube.

Advocates for Ohio's Future needs your help to elevate these stories with our state lawmakers.

Will you take five minutes to call or email state leaders? Every call will make a difference. Tell them:

Proposed state budget cuts to emergency food assistance, behavioral health, long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities, early care & education, and child welfare will have real-life consequences for vulnerable Ohioans, particularly for the nearly 1 in 3 Ohioans who live at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. 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. 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 in Ohio.

Thank you for staying engaged over the last week and a half, and for  taking time to advocate during this last push for a budget that shores up the safety net in Ohio. Today more than ever, please forward this email to give your friends and colleagues an opportunity to get involved.

Margaret Hulbert, Co-Chair