Report offers solutions to child care cost issues in WV - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Report offers solutions to child care cost issues in WV

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Thousands of West Virginia families rely on public child care assistance so they can maintain full- or part-time jobs. But recent changes in copayments and eligibility could leave some low-income families without that support, according to a new report issued by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

The report, "Reducing Child Care Assistance: The Impact of West Virginia's Low-Income Working Families," takes a look at the impact these child care cuts could have on working families, the structure of child care programs and their funding, the importance of child care and how policy makers can strengthen programs.

"Child care assistance is crucial to keeping low-income parents in the work force and their children safe," said Ted Boettner, author of the report and executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy. "Instead of cutting child care assistance, we should follow the lead of other states that have invested additional resources into the program."

The report included several key findings, including:

 

  • Low-income parents, those with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, can enroll children younger than 12, or up to age 18 in some circumstances, if the parent is working or going to school.
  • West Virginia's income eligibility limit is lower than all but 15 states.
  • Enrollment in child care programs is at its lowest in four years, and 7,500 fewer children are enrolled now than in 2001.
  • Single mothers with one child at 100 percent of the federal poverty level now pay on average 9.1 percent of their monthly income for child care, compared to 2.3 percent at the beginning of 2012.
  • In 2011, approximately 90 percent of child care assistance funding, or $68.1 million, is from two federal block grants — the Child Care Development Fund and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — while 9 percent, or $6.2 million, came from state general revenue funds.
  • In 2008, West Virginia spent $18.9 million in TANF funds on child care assistance compared to $29.4 million in 2011. These additional TANF funds came from carryover reserve funds.

 

In addition to identifying problems, the report also looked at possible solutions. Suggested ways to solve child care problems are:

 

  • The state can prevent child care cuts by investing additional state resources into the program. According to the report, the state would not be alone in appropriating additional money for child care assistance. In 2010, nine other states spent $82 million on child care assistance programs beyond what they needed to match federal funds.
  • TANF funds should undergo a close examination. According to the report, West Virginia did not spend TANF funds under the category "Authorized Under Prior Law" between 1997 to 2008.  But between 2009 and 2011, the state spent about $85 million under AUPL, and a larger portion of those funds went toward "foster care services," even though those services do not meet one of the four stated purposes of TANF.
  • The state should explore the creation of a refundable child care tax credit.
  • West Virginia should examine best practices in child care assistance policies in other states and use those to strengthen the West Virginia Child Care Program.