UPDATE: W.Va. Delaying Proposed Cuts to Child Care Subsidy

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 12/18/12 @ 3:10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says he's delaying proposed changes to child-care aid requirements that could have ended aid for an estimated 1,425 children.

Changes proposed in June would have meant families at or above 150 percent of the federal poverty level would have lost payments for outside child care starting next year.

Those changes were in an effort to make up for shortfalls in federal funding.

But the governor's office on Tuesday said the proposed changes will go under further review. Tomblin plans to submit a budget amendment to close gaps in the program through spring.

The program helped more than 24,000 children during the last budget year.

WAYNE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A childcare crisis is brewing. West Virginia is making changes in how it helps families pay for childcare. In the latest proposal, the families who need help most may no longer get what they need to make ends meet.

Things always seem better under the gleam of a child's smile, and Jessica Goode enjoys plenty of those precious moments with her 1-year-old daughter Brenna.

But, even the happiest of play times can't replace the burden hanging over this single mother, who's working full-time to provide for her family. One of her biggest expenses -- child care.

“It's a big chunk of my monthly budget," Goode said. "She's here five days a week, and it's a lot to make sure she gets what she needs."

Goode qualifies for child care assistance through the state of West Virginia, which makes care affordable to those at lower income levels. But, a new proposal is threatening that needed help.

“Beginning August first, co-payments will increase from 5 percent to 12 percent,” said John Law with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services.

Law says the state is changing the way it pays for childcare for people. This change comes because excess federal money that once existed to allow more families to get help is gone. That means rolling back subsidies to help only the lowest income families.

“Anyone over 150 percent over poverty level will no longer be eligible for assistance," Law said. "That’s about $2,794 a month for a family of four."

That goes into effect Jan. 1 in a move the state says was well thought out.

“We looked at all the alternatives and we think not cutting the rate to providers and keeping these folks on until January 1 are two of the big steps we've taken to ensure continuity of childcare for providers and parents,” Law said.

West Virginia's daycare centers say these changes could mean many families who are working or going to school may no longer be able to afford child care and be forced to quit. For Goode, the options are mind-boggling.

“I don’t have the luxury of having extended family to help with childcare," she said. "If I lost my assistance, I may have to quit my job … I don’t know what I would do."

West Virginia Child Care Centers United, an advocacy group, also worries even those who don't get assistance could suffer. They say if the low-income families pull out because they can no longer afford it, that would reduce the overall income to the facilities forcing some centers to either raise their rates or go out of business.

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