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Report: WV Among States Undermining Support For Childcare

Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2012. Report by the National Women's Law Center.
Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2012. Report by the National Women's Law Center.
October 12, 2012

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – West Virginia is among the states where working families' ability to get child care assistance is getting worse, according to a new national report. Children's advocates say that's because of budget-cutting measures that provoked a public outcry this spring.

The West Virginia situation isn't unique, says the National Women's Law Center. Its report says about half of states have weakened child care support for families. Margie Hale, executive director of West Virginia Kids Count, says this state's decline is the result of unwise budget-cutting by the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).

"It is about jobs. These are low-income people, and they want to work – but in order to work, they need some help with their child care expenses."

Citing budget problems, DHHR announced earlier this year that state-supported child care for low-income families would cost more, and would be available for fewer families. The unpopularity of the cuts has prompted Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to reconsider the issue.

Hale says the cuts provoked such a strong public reaction that one major portion - a freeze on new families entering the program - was rolled back by the governor. However, she adds, that has only slowed what she calls "a national race to the bottom."

"There was so much opposition, he did lift the freeze. But it's not a good situation in the country, or in West Virginia."

DHHR still plans on roughly doubling copayment amounts for most families. Hale says they also want to kick some families out of the program entirely.

"These are people who are above the poverty line and may have gotten a raise in a low-income job. This new policy, which is going into effect January 1, will cut them off."

She notes that approach could force those families into the strange position of losing that job because someone has to stay home with the kids.

The report, "Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2012," is online at nwlc.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV