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Wanted: Funding for Kids First

PHOTO: As lawmakers return to Frankfort for a special session on redistricting, child advocates are at the capitol too with a message: "Fund kids first."  The advocates want the Legislature to restore funding cuts made to child-care programs.
PHOTO: As lawmakers return to Frankfort for a special session on redistricting, child advocates are at the capitol too with a message: "Fund kids first." The advocates want the Legislature to restore funding cuts made to child-care programs.
August 19, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. - With low-income families facing funding cuts to critical child-based programs, Kentucky lawmakers are hearing about the devastating effect. Children's advocates are using today, the first day of the Legislature's special session on redistricting, to make their point: "Fund kids first."

The state has made cuts this year to the Child Care Assistance and Kinship Care programs, and according to Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, the funding reductions have hurt families.

"It's that dad who can't enroll in the community college this year because he has to find a way to take care of his kid," he said. "It's that mom who was making some progress in her work who had to quit, because, again, they couldn't afford quality child care."

Lawmakers will draw up a new two-year state budget when they return to Frankfort in January for their 2014 regular session. The motive behind today's rally for kids at the Capitol is to send lawmakers a loud message that they need to restore the $87 million in cuts and strengthen the programs.

Since April, no new low-income working families have been added to the program which helps pay for child care. Additionally, the income eligibility limits were increased, forcing 8700 families to give up their child care assistance.

Christina Stopher's job promotion has put her in that situation. She is a single mother of two boys, ages three and four. She said the loss of the state's help will probably derail her career and cost the state more.

"To stay at home with my kids and get on the welfare programs that they have" is the prospect facing her, she said. "It's holding me back from bettering myself, because I won't have anybody to take care of my child."

Governor Steve Beshear said he made the cuts after exhausting all available options. He has challenged lawmakers to effect comprehensive tax reform to help Kentucky's children and their education.

Terry Brooks agreed that tax reform is a must, but he said the governor could have used discretionary money to protect the child-care programs.

"There was enough money for theme parks, bourbon and business, but apparently not enough money for kids," Brooks charged.

The cuts have also stopped new applications to the kinship program, which helps grandparents or other relatives raising children who cannot live safely with their parents.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY