A $48 million emergency childhood support package will soon be routed to help Arizona’s youngest.
The First Things First board voted this week to release the funds six months earlier than planned to help working families and their children in the beleaguered economy. About $24 million will be used in discretionary funding and another $24 million will be allocated to First Things First’s 31 regional councils.
The package will be used to help families with children aged 5 and under.
• $23.3 million will provide four months of child care scholarships for working families whose incomes are at or below the 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
• $500,000 for emergency food boxes.
• $24 million for family support programs, including those designed to prevent abuse and neglect.
First Things First is a voter-approved initiative and assesses an 80 cent tax on packs of cigarettes and other tobacco products. The organization relies on goals created by 31 regional councils and the first round of funding was set to be dispersed in July.
Because of the tax, First Things First isn’t directly affected by the funding shortfalls facing the state, but the state Legislature did sweep $7 million of interest earned on the organization’s coffers as lawmakers worked to close this year’s budget deficit.
J. Elliott Hibbs, First Things First executive director, will also send a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer and the state Legislature to urge them to use the federal stimulus funds to re-instate services for families of young children per the board’s direction.