Hospital seeks increased tax credit for child care

Mountain Health Network called for lawmakers to increase a tax credit from 50 to 100 percent for employers who provide childcare for their employess.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 7:05 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday wrapped up their visit to Huntington as one hospital network called for them to increase a tax credit from 50 to 100 percent for employers who provide child care for their employees.

Working men and women with children rely on affordable reliable child care, but availability can be limited.

Abby Reale is a mother of two children and director of government and external affairs for Mountain Health Network, owner of St. Mary’s Medical Center and Cabell Huntington Hospital. She told lawmakers meeting at Marshall University that the state has just one slot for approximately every three children needing care.

“Over 64 percent of West Virginians live in a child care desert,” she said afterwards. “If you don’t have child care that’s available -- quality child care. You know, it’d be nice to pick where you send your kid for child care. Some people don’t have that luxury.”

Her employer, Mountain Health Network, is attempting to bring about change -- providing child care for its employees. The service launched in August, and there’s already a long wait list.

It’s a heavy investment made possible, in part, thanks to a tax credit passed in 2022.

Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, sponsored the legislation.

“Just talking to people. They’d talk about they want to get back in the workforce -- part of the Legislature, what we’re trying to do is get people back in the workforce to improve our workforce participation, and if you’ve got small children at home and no one to take care of them, it’s just commonsense. You can’t do that,” he told WSAZ NewsChannel 3.

It’s not just hospitals and major corporations, but Takubo said tax credits are also available for co-ops, a way to allow small business to provide the same benefits.

“If industry wants to partner with the state, the state’s just saying ‘Hey, we’re going to be a welcome partner with you.’” he said. “We know that a lot of people need to get back to work. We want to help with that, and we don’t want to penalize you, for you trying to fix the solution.”

The hospital network called for even more assistance Tuesday -- money for expanding existing building, after-school programming and urging lawmakers to increase the tax credit from 50 to 100 percent. Reale said that can make a big difference.

“That’s retention and recruitment for employers,” she said. “So, if we’re able to subsidize, if we’re able to allow for potentially way lower, affordable childcare, that’s quality, affordable child care, we would be able to retain that staff. Maybe recruit more staff. Keep people here in West Virginia.”

The Health Committee also heard from Stephen Lloyd — a doctor and recovering drug addict whose life story is captured in the Hulu series “Dopesick.”

He urged lawmakers to use opioid settlement dollars to take an all-in approach for addiction recovery.