CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new report on childcare assistance said West Virginia officials may have made the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program "cost prohibitive" when they raised parents' co-payments for the program in August.
In West Virginia, TANF provided needed financial assistance to more than 24,000 young children in 2011 whose parents had jobs or were attending school. Daycare is one major service provided by TANF.
In July, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ended an enrollment freeze to get children into the program, but did not reverse recent financial cuts initiated by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy just released a new study -- "Reducing Child Care Assistance: The Impact of West Virginia's Low-Income Working Families" - that details benefits the TANF program provides to some of the state's poorest families, especially single mothers.
Ted Boettner, author of the report and executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy, said, "Child care assistance is crucial to keeping low-income parents in the workforce and their children safe.
"Instead of cutting child care assistance, we should follow the lead of other states that have invested additional resources into the program."
On August 1, West Virginia significantly raised parents' co-payments into the program.
A single mother earning $15,130 a year -- which is 100 percent of the poverty level as defined by the federal government -- found her co-payments increase from $29 a month to $115 a month, according to the Center's report.
That mother's childcare costs increased from 2.3 percent of her monthly income at the beginning of 2012 to 9.1 percent today.
"If costs become too prohibitive," the report continues, "some parents will likely have to stop working in order to stay home and care for their children."
In some cases, parents might leave their children home alone, if they cannot afford to pay for childcare.
Today, parents whose income is below 150 percent of the poverty level can enroll children up to 12 years old for TANF benefits. West Virginia's income eligibility level is lower than 34 other states.