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As Protests Grow Against Childcare Cuts, Gov Lifts Freeze

Evelyn Dortch. Photo by Dan Heyman
Evelyn Dortch. Photo by Dan Heyman
July 25, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With increasing protests against reductions in state-supported child care, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has stopped one portion of the cuts.

The governor's office has gotten hundreds of messages by phone and e-mail on the issue. A rally had been planned for midday today at the State Capitol, although it now may be canceled.

Evelyn Dortch, executive director of the Direct Action Welfare Group, was at an earlier protest.

"There is an outcry. We've heard from child-care providers all over the state. We have heard from families all over the state that are saying, 'We're going to have to quit our jobs.' "

The state Department of Health and Human Resources had planned to increase co-pays, freeze enrollment and tighten income requirements in order to fill a budget shortfall. However, late Tuesday, Tomblin said he would lift the freeze on enrolling new families and will be considering the entire issue during the next few months.

If the cuts were to go forward as planned, Dortch says, lower-income working families whose child-care costs are now subsidized would have to pay thousands more a year in day-care expenses. She says that would be hard on an already weak state economy - as child-care providers would have to lay employees off, and many parents would have to quit work or college.

"The business that these families work for - these families have to quit work, these business are then going to be without employees."

State officials were hoping to save $8 million with the cuts, but Dortch says West Virginia has more than 20 times that amount in general-revenue and lottery-fund surpluses this year. She says she's been told the cuts are attributable to reductions in federal Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) funds.

"That's not the fault of the families, if the federal TANF dollars aren't there. Our state needs to invest in these children's future. They need to invest in working families."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV