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Hundreds of W.Va. families to lose child-care subsidies

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An estimated 800 families with 1,400 children will be affected by cuts to child-care subsidies by the state Department of Health and Human Resources, starting next year, DHHR officials announced today.

Eligible families will also have higher co-payments, starting Aug. 1. The co-payments will more than double, rising from 5 percent to 12 percent.

Between cuts to eligibility and the increase in co-pay amounts, the state expects to save nearly $8 million per year, DHHR spokesman John Law said.

The child-care cuts will affect families whose income is between 150 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty rate. Based on the federal poverty rate for this year, a family of four who make between $33,525 and $41,348 a year would lose their child-care subsidies under the cuts.

Families who get assistance will see the changes when they receive redeterminations from the state Bureau for Children and Families, Law said. Those redeterminations happen every six months from the date the families are first eligible for the benefits.

"Everyone who is current getting child care will continue to get it until at least January," Law said. He said that unlike other states, West Virginia is giving families six months notice to prepare for eligibility changes.

Jeanette Barker, president of West Virginia Childcare Centers United, said the cuts will affect more than just the families who receive subsidies.

"We're setting families up for failure," Barker said. "And those cuts are going to cause childcare centers to close.

"I think this move is something that discourages business to come to West Virginia because we don't have early education opportunities, that's where we're going with this."

The cuts are to make up for the depletion of a $58 million carryover in federal funding known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Law wrote in a prepared statement. West Virginia receives about $110 million yearly in TANF funds. For a number of years, the state did not spend the entire amount each year, and built up a surplus of $58 million by 2008.

Since then the surplus has been used to pay for child-care and social services, Law said, but the surplus is now gone.

In 2011, more than 24,000 children received childcare services at a cost of around $5 million in state funds and $50 million in federal funding, according to the release. The number of children served grew from around 23,000 and a total state and federal cost of $45 million in 2009.

State childcare advocates have argued child care subsidies allow parents to work and that it would be cheaper for the state to fund child care than pay for supporting the family through welfare.

"If you don't have the money, it's not any cheaper," Law said. "The important thing here is there is no decrease in provider rates. The child-care providers will be paid what they have been paid. We are not cutting their reimbursement."

The state Bureau for Children and Families, part of DHHR, is also cutting more than $9.5 million in grants, including a $2.5 million grant to the Department of Education for expanding a summer nutrition program.

Also included in the cuts were 14 grants totaling $5.5 million to regional workforce investment boards to fund subsidized employment for youth and adults. The grants were part of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding, which expired Sept. 30, 2010.

The Bureau for Children and Families is also no longer funding a $762,000 grant to the West Virginia University Research Corporation and a $149,469 grant to the West Virginia State Research and Development Corporation as well as an $862,168 grant to the WVU Research and Development Corporation for vocational assessment. "We're cutting different grants some because of Recovery Act money and some because we thought we could do it as well internally," Law said.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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