WILLIAMSON - Beginning this August, area families who have qualified for assistance to provide paid childcare services for their children will find themselves with a higher out-of-pocket amount due to federal and state cuts from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). If this news wasn’t devastating enough for those working minimum wage jobs or slightly higher pay, come January 1st, several of them will be cut from the program completely, and will be faced with the dilemma of whether to keep working and see the majority of their pay go for daycare, or to quit work and rely on the state welfare program to support them.
Tammy Bucci is the owner and operator of “Kids n’ Company”, a Williamson based daycare that has been serving the needs of Tug Valley families for many years. Bucci has teamed with the West Virginia Health and Human Resources Department (DHHR) to provide subsidized and partially-subsidized care for many children whose parents worked at lower paying jobs or who were enrolled in college through the Link Child Care Resource. This program had proven to be beneficial for many years and has accommodated more families than Bucci can count.
These services, however, are soon to come to an end.
“Approximately 85 percent of the kids presently enrolled with us have their costs subsidized through these state and federal programs,” commented the daycare owner. “All of them will see additional costs between Aug 1st and Jan 1st, with some of them having their co-pays doubled and tripled, while others will no longer qualify for assistance at all.”
Bucci, along with other daycares across the state, received a notification letter of the changes from the WV DHHR on June 29, explaining that the federal funds from the TANF program that has enabled the state to provide the assistance in the past will no longer be available.
“The way it was explained to me, the federal government allocates funding to the state to allow for services such as these, as well as many others,” stated Bucci. “The state then decides what and where to spend the funding, and if the amount they receive decreases, they are the ones who make the decisions as to what programs will be kept and what ones will be eliminated.”
“What really doesn’t make any sense to me is that this particular program provides assistance to pay for at least a portion of daycare costs for children of parents who work, that are trying to support their families. They go to work every day to jobs that don’t pay the best in the world but none the less, they’re working,” remarked Bucci. “Due to the fact that their salaries don’t allow them to pay child care costs out of pocket without assistance ($18 per day), they will now have to re-examine their choice to work or whether to quit and stay home and draw a welfare check each month, which I guarantee you will cost the state a whole lot more than what they were spending toward the child care costs.”
Detailed in the letter Bucci received outlining the changes in the program were the income limits families of specific numbers could not exceed before losing benefits. However; all members enrolled in the childcare subsidizing will see an increase in their co-pays, at the very least.
One example offered by Bucci was a single mother who currently pays a $2.00 co-pay per day, per child, for daycare. Her costs more than tripled, jumping to $6.25 per day, per child.
“She makes minimum wage,” explained Bucci. “She will have to work several hours just to accommodate her child care costs. There’s no way she will be able to continue to work, it won’t benefit her. She’ll be lucky to make enough to pay for her gas and lunch after she pays for daycare for her kids.”
Bucci is all too aware that that the parents and children enrolled in this program won’t be the only ones affected, but stated that she, as well as other daycare facilities across the state, will find themselves forced to raise the cost of childcare to try to offset the loss of state funding, and also fears that she will be forced to lay off employees who have been with her business for many years.
“If my reimbursements are cut as drastically as this letter outlines that they will be, I’m looking at a huge profit loss, and there’s no way I will be able to employ the number of staff that I do now. This is going to snowball in a financial setback for people on every level, from the parents of the children enrolled in the Link Program, to me as an owner, to my employees and their families,” said Bucci. “And let’s not forget the taxes that are being paid by these working parents, and by my workers and me. If they’re not working and if my business closes, the taxes we’re paying are also gone.”
Tomorrow, Bucci and her entire staff will be joining other childcare centers, their owners, employees and concerned parents from across the state at a planned rally at the WV State Capitol between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The group, which is predicted to reach numbers of over 1,000, will voice their complaints and concerns to their state legislators and government officials.
“We plan to be heard,” remarked Bucci. “We want them to be aware of the terrible strain this is going to put on each and every person affected by these cuts. They need to open their eyes and realize that cutting these child care programs is only going to result in the state being out a lot more money in the end, as they find themselves providing welfare benefits, food stamps and medical cards for individuals and families who can’t afford to pay child care and work minimum wage jobs. There will also be an increase in unemployment cases filed because daycares will have no choice but to lay off workers as their reimbursements decrease.”
“We’re going to be joined in Charleston by daycare owners from Logan, Boone and several other counties, and a large number of staff members and concerned parents who are being affected,” Bucci stated. “We’re asking that anyone who can, come and go with us and take a stand to help support our cause and share our dislike for the cuts in this program.”
“If you can’t go with us, we’re asking that you contact our state representatives serving in the Senate and the House of Delegates, as well as the DHHR.,” explained Bucci. “We need to make a good show on Wednesday, and we also need to send emails and letters as often as possible to our state government to let them know these changes are not acceptable, they’re not appreciated and more than anything, they’re just wrong.”
“I understand that funding for programs has decreased, I know our economy is declining and that cuts have to be made. But good Lord, can’t they make cuts to programs that don’t affect those who are trying to work and take care of their families? Why can’t they look elsewhere and trim the paydays and funding for positions and programs that won’t devastate those who are already struggling?” concluded Bucci.
“Please, please – help us be heard, help us make a stand. Let the government of our state know that we don’t want this program cut, that the families and children of Mingo County deserve more.”
To speak with Bucci regarding the rally tomorrow at the state capital, you are asked to phone 304-235-5751.