Reversing Cuts In Child-Care Aid

President Barack Obama and Congress have practiced a cruel deception on tens of millions of Americans during the past few years. It involves federal funding of state programs through sources such as the “stimulus” project.

But stimulus money is running out and many states, including West Virginia, are being forced to choose between ending programs that were funded in part by federal funds and coming up with the money on their own. That simply is not a viable choice in many cash-strapped states.

Here in West Virginia, prudent management of state finances has allowed governors and legislators to put more money into some initiatives to help low-income individuals and families. But in large measure because of federal demands, that time may be over.

Legislators had a difficult time balancing the state budget for the current fiscal year, because of drastic increases in the cost of the Medicaid program. It will be even tougher next year, as Medicaid costs continue going up.

Earlier this year, state Department of Health and Human Resources officials were forced to make cuts in help provided to low-income families who need assistance with child care. The program is focused on parents, many of them single mothers, who need child care so they can work or pursue education intended to get them into the job market.

DHHR officials have increased co-payments parents who receive help must make. For a single mother earning $15,130 a year, the co-payment has increased from $29 a month to $115 a month. On that level of income, $86 more a month is a dramatic increase. Comparable changes were made for those at other income levels.

The change makes it more difficult for low-income parents to hold jobs or go to school.

Again, don’t blame state officials. It is not their fault federal funding for the program was reduced. Money for other state-level programs also will be cut as funding for federal initiatives such as “stimulus” ends.

In this situation, however, state officials should take a look at whether money can be found to take the child-care program co-pays back down to the level they were earlier this year. As little as $3 million a year in additional state funding could restore the co-pays to their old level.

The program helps West Virginians who are trying to help themselves by working or getting education to find jobs. If at all possible during a time of belt-tightening in state government, efforts should be made to avoid reducing assistance to them.