Contentious 2023 MO Legislative Session Saw Wins for Struggling Families
Although Missouri's 2023 legislative session was contentious and resulted in a historically low number of bills being passed, advocates for children applauded some significant wins for struggling Missouri families.
Jessica Seitz, executive director of Missouri KidsFirst, an advocacy nonprofit focused on preventing child abuse and neglect, said among the most important is the extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage from its current 60 days to one year. Seitz called access to health care a "proven prevention strategy against child maltreatment."
"Those wellness visits cannot be -- they can't be replaced," Seitz emphasized. "Extending and guaranteeing that postpartum coverage is all the way through the year just really helps guarantee at least that sort of support for a new family."
Missouri ranks 44th in the nation for maternal mortality rates, which Gov. Mike Parson called "embarrassing and absolutely unacceptable" in his 2023 State of the State address.
Seitz pointed out another huge win for struggling families is the change to a gradual "step-down" from access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Under the new system, a family will gradually lose benefits proportionate to their increase in income until they reach 200% of federal poverty guidelines.
She contended the "step-down" approach will help address the "disincentive" to earn more money, which can be a factor under the current system, because people can lose substantial benefits with only a small increase in their wages.
"Similar to the health care coverage, preventing food insecurity and promoting economic well-being are also two proven strategies at preventing child maltreatment," Seitz explained.
Seitz added the Legislature also addressed the high cost of child care.
"There was millions of dollars put into child care in the budget itself," Seitz noted. "They, for the first time, increased subsidy rates and there was an increase for providers. So, there were a lot of really great childcare wins."
Seitz called it encouraging Missouri lawmakers -- who otherwise struggled to find much they could agree on -- could come together on "kids and family issues."
The Missouri Public News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.