CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As a state Senate committee continues to study how best to measure and fight child poverty, a pilot program that would do just that is going unfunded.
Legislators passed a bill last year to set up a program on Charleston's West Side that would better organize the work of state agencies to improve the lives of at-risk kids. The state Department of Health and Human Resources is supposed to partner with a community organization to provide comprehensive, holistic programs to help poor children. The program would try to coordinate existing funding to cut waste and achieve better outcomes.
But the bill did not specify a funding source and the agency's budget is expected to be cut by $10.9 million beginning July 1, as part of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's 7.5 percent in across-the-board budget cuts.
"We do not believe it would require a large amount of funding because we're talking about better managing the funding that's there,'' said the Rev. Matthew Watts, pastor at Grace Bible Church in Charleston and the president of HOPE Youth and Family Services, which would implement the program if it gets funding. "But it does require some funding to oversee the management and bring everything together.''
Watts said he thought the program would require about $250,000 from the state in the first year and somewhat less than that in subsequent years. Watts also said that DHHR Secretary Rocco Fucillo supports the program. Fucillo's office did not respond to requests for comment.
Although the bill passed by wide margins, it included contingency language that only put the program into effect "if funds are available.''
The program was to run for four years. It would measure its effectiveness through a variety of metrics: health screenings for infants, truancy rates, reading levels, dropout rates and job training enrollment, among others. It was instructed to document what worked best and could be replicated in other areas.
The Senate committee on child poverty has stressed the importance of looking for programs and solutions that can be measured and are proven to work.
"You can't improve what you don't measure,'' Kathy Szafran, president of Crittenton Services, told the committee on Wednesday.