Shortly before the holidays, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin made a wise decision and delayed cuts to child-care payments that were scheduled to take effect in the new year.
"After much discussion with parents and folks in the child-care industry, I decided it's not in the best interest of West Virginia families to move forward with the scheduled changes to our state's child-care subsidy," Tomblin said in a news release.
The program is still short because the federal money used to pay for it is running out. But, the governor's office said he will find a way to cover the cost rather than cutting help that keeps low-wage workers on the job.
The program serves families making up to 185 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $35,317 a year for a family of three. The cuts would have reduced eligibility to 150 percent of poverty, or about $28,635 a year for a family of three. Parents of 1,425 West Virginia children would have had child care pulled out from under them. Some of them would have given up jobs because they could not afford decent child care on their own.
The governor has discovered, like many before him, that child care is about much more than just babysitting:
• If you want more people working, in any kind of job, access to safe, appropriate child care is a must, particularly for people in low-wage jobs.
• Child care itself can be good for children. Done right, educational child care programs help prepare children for school, and give some children opportunities they may not have at home or with relatives or neighbors. Good early childhood education contributes to school success and employability later on.
• Children are better off when they have the model of parents working, and parents do better when they earn money to support their families.
• Child care is itself an industry, which has grown and improved during the last several decades with more professional training and opportunities. It is a profession West Virginia should nurture, not damage carelessly.
In his announcement, Gov. Tomblin said: "I believe it's best to keep hard-working families in the program and to look for other ways to address the budget shortfalls."That really is the point. Services that help West Virginians to be breadwinners are worthy investments for today and the future.