Last week, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin lifted the freeze on new enrollments in West Virginia’s subsidized child care program, scheduled to go into effect Aug. 1, following protests in the Eastern Panhandle and in Charleston.
“Because this program is important to thousands of working West Virginia families I have lifted the freeze on the childcare subsidy program—allowing qualified families to enter this program,” said Tomblin in an official statement. “We need to strike a reasonable balance between access to and quality of child care while placing a priority on funding services for the families and children who need it most. Over the next several months I will be working with parents, child care providers, members of the legislature and staff within the Department of Health and Human Services to share ideas about how to sustain this critical program for our families.”
Republican challenger Bill Maloney had also criticized Tomblin for cutting the program.
“Career politicians in Charleston have wasted millions in taxpayer dollars on everything from unnecessary Internet routers to a bloated bureaucracy,” said Maloney in a press release. “But rather than controlling runaway spending, Earl Ray has chosen to turn his back on working West Virginia parents and their children.”
While the freeze on enrollment has been lifted, other changes to the program will proceed as previously planned – including more than doubling co-pays and reducing the eligible income cutoff from 185 percent to 150 percent of the federal poverty line.
Department of Health and Human Resources Assistant Secretary John D. Law explained that the system was initially expanded because of a yearly surplus in federal funding of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. As the program continued, the surplus slowly disappeared and the decision was made to cut the program once carryover funds had been exhausted.
Day care providers who protested the decision argued that gutting the program – which is mostly available to families in which the parent or parents are working or are in school – would paradoxically lead to more families going on welfare as they had to choose between work and caring for their children.