CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In today's economy, when both parents work, good day care is essential to keep families and society functioning. So the impending closure of three tot-tending centers is a jolt to the mid-Kanawha Valley. This sad loss should be averted, if possible.
Parents were surprised this week by letters saying the three facilities -- Public Employees Day Care near the Capitol, plus Elk Center Day Care and Shawnee Community Day Care -- are to cease operation in about a month because of a $65,000 budget shortfall. The shutdown will wipe out 40 jobs and leave 120 preschool children in limbo.
Strangely, the letters put part of the blame on the new U.S. Affordable Care Act, saying the ACA will force the centers to provide health coverage to staff members. "We would have to start offering insurance to employees," management claimed.
However, this may be mistaken. Analyst Brandon Merritt of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy told reporter Mackenzie Mays that the ACA doesn't apply to small employers with fewer than 50 workers. "I can state emphatically that they are not impacted by the Affordable Care Act," he said.
What's going on? Were operators of the three centers misinformed about federal law changes? If so, maybe they can reconsider their closure decision.
The centers are operated by an independent agency, the Kanawha County Schools Community Education Program, which gets no tax money. It must survive solely on payments from parents.
It will be a shame if 40 jobs are lost and a multitude of parents must scramble to find other facilities to tend their little ones. Somehow, we hope the shutdown can be prevented.
The Legislature's Web designer, John Tice, wants the state Department of Health and Human Services -- which sets rules for day care programs -- to rescue the centers. "I can't imagine there's nothing the DHHR can do to stop them from straight-up closing the doors," he said.
Local leaders, and perhaps legislators, should examine this quandary and try to save the day care centers.