Contact: Ted Boettner, 304-720-8682 or 304-590-3454 (cell), email@example.com
Report Also Explores Structure and Importance of Child Care Assistance
–Every day in West Virginia, thousands of working families rely on public child care assistance so they can keep the jobs they need to support their families while also providing a safe and reliable environment that prepares children for school. Unfortunately, recent and upcoming changes in parental copayments and eligibility could leave many low-income families without the support they need to make ends meet and stay off welfare.
In Reducing Child Care Assistance: The Impact of West Virginia’s Low-Income Working Families, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy takes a close look at the impact of child care cuts on working families, the structure of the program and how it is funded, the importance of the child care industry to the state, and how policymakers can strengthen the program.
“Child care assistance is crucial to keeping low-income parents in the workforce and their children safe,” said Ted Boettner, author of the report and Executive Director of the West Virginia 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.”
Key findings of the report include:
- Low-income parents – those with incomes below 150 percent of poverty – can enroll children ages 0 to 12 (up to age 18 in some circumstances) if they are working or going to school.
- West Virginia’s income eligibility limit is lower than all but 15 states.
- Enrollment in the program is at its lowest point in four years (13,449 in 2012), and there are 7,500 fewer children enrolled compared to 2001.
- Single mothers with one child at 100 percent of poverty now pay on average 9.1 percent of their monthly income for child care compared to 2.3 percent at the beginning of 2012.
- Approximately 90 percent of child care assistance funding ($68.1 million) is from two federal block grants (Child Care Development Fund and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), while nine percent or $6.2 million came from state general revenue funds in 2011.
- 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.
Solutions to Improve Child Care Assistance
- The state can prevent child care cuts by investing additional state resources into the program. West Virginia 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.
- A close examination of the TANF budget should be made. From 1997 to 2008, West Virginia did not spend TANF funds under the category of “Authorized Under Prior Law.” However, between 2009 and 2011 the state spent about $85 million under AUPL, and a good portion of these funds went toward “foster care services” even though these services do not meet one of the four stated purposes of TANF. West Virginia also spends an above average amount of funds on administration and systems, 12.1 percent compared to the national average of 6.9 percent in 2011.
- The state should explore the creation of a refundable child care tax credit.
- Over the long run, West Virginia should examine best practices in child care assistance policies in other states that could be used to strengthen the WV Child Care Program.
“While Governor Tomblin took an important step by lifting the freeze in enrollment to the program, state budget cuts to child care assistance create a difficult situation for low- income parents, child care workers, and business owners whose clients are largely recipients of child care financial assistance,” said Boettner. “Fortunately, the state has many options to ensure that low-income parents are not forced out of work because they cannot afford child care.”
The full report is available at www.wvpolicy.org.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy is a public policy research organization that is nonpartisan, nonprofit, and statewide. The Center focuses on how policy decisions affect all West Virginians, especially low- and moderate-income families.