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UPDATE: Lawmakers discuss cuts to child, family programs

Posted: Apr 24, 2020 9:52 AM EDTUpdated: Apr 25, 2020 3:37 PM EDT

By Mandi Cardosi - email
UPDATE 3:30 p.m. April 25:

A bipartisan group, in conjunction with the Our Children, Our Future Campaign, vocalized their support for restoring cuts to Early Childhood Programs inMorgantown on April 25.

Republican lawmakers signed onto a letter requesting restoration of the funds and included Delegates Gary Howell, R-Mineral, John McCuskey, R-Kanawha, Randy Smith, R-Preston, and Senators Mike Hall, R-Putnam and Donna Boley, R-Pleasants.

Delegates Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, and Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, spoke on behalf of the other lawmakers.

The leaders of the Our Children, Our Future Campaign brought attention to the budget cuts that are poised to negatively impact the welfare of West Virginiachildren. Delegate Barbara Flesichauer, D-Monongalia, was also in attendance to show support.

On March 23, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin used his line-item veto power to cut several early childhood and domestic violence programs from the Fiscal Year 2015 budget passed by the Legislature. This included over $1 million in cuts to In-Home Family Education, Family Resource Networks and Starting PointsFamily Resource Centers, Child Advocacy Centers, domestic violence programs and services and child abuse prevention. Many of these programs have seen cuts in prior years or have not had any funding increases for years, while the cost of services and the increase in the number of families needing assistance has continued to rise, making it impossible to serve as many families and children.

“Many of the state’s primary budget drivers for adults can be directly related to the maltreatment of our children,” Pasdon said. “This correlation makes investment in our children a wise investment for our state.  Republicans have been strong advocates of these programs for years, and we want to recognize the values that these programs represent: family unity, self-reliance, and fiscal responsibility.”

Storch said the programs comprised of the cuts represent the best hope for many vulnerable families in the community.

“The programs that comprise these cuts represent the best hope for many of our most vulnerable families to break the cycles of violence and poverty,” Storch said.  “I have seen the value of these programs in my own backyard. They provide steady jobs to dedicated counselors and social workers, they operate on shoestring budgets, and they are enormously efficient – leveraging millions of dollars every year in private donations, federal grants and foundation support.”

All parties are hopeful that the governor will restore the programs to the levels initially approved by the Legislature with a supplemental appropriation in the May Special Session.

For more information about the Our Children, Our Future Campaign please visit wvhealthykids.org

Original Story 10 a.m. April 24:

On April 23, the Our Children, Our Future Campaign released a new report it’s using to urge Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to re-consider his line item veto of over $1 million in early childhood programs.

The group is hoping to convince the governor to include in a special session the restoration of budget cuts to children and family programs throughout the state.

Parents, legislators, advocates, economists and faith leaders participated in a conference call with the media yesterday that outlined some of the report’s key findings.

The Our Children, Our Future Campaign is an alliance of over 177 organizations, faith groups, unions, schools, chambers of commerce, legislators and other partners committed to ending child poverty in West Virginia. In its first 18 months, the campaign has served as a leading voice in winning 12 policy victories that help give kids and families a hand up out of poverty – from expanding Medicaid to restoring cuts to Child Care for 1400 families to expanding school lunches to helping pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

Jim McKay, state director of Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, pointed out Tomblin said in his state of the state address how important it is to invest in children and families.

“We must invest in our future and invest in our children,” McKay said. “These cuts are real, they will hurt families and kill jobs.

“We feel it’s irresponsible to cut programs that protect children from abuse and yet that’s the choice that’s been made,” he added. “Save the future of tomorrow and invest in our children.”

Key findings from the report claim:

• Programs to prevent child abuse by giving parents the tools they need to raise healthy children, are a vital piece in making the state’s communities strong and safe.

• Altogether, these programs leverage over $14 million in federal and private funds.

• The programs are not only efficient, but also a sound investment. For example, every $1 invested in In-Home Family Education programs returns $5.70 to the community.

• The cuts to In-Home Family Education could mean 75 fewer families receiving vital services to help their children, while at least 560 victims of domestic violence will not receive services. Cuts to domestic violence grants also mean that between seven and 14 people will lose their jobs.

“These programs are highly effective and efficient,” said Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “In a recent audit that was done for the Department of Health and Human Resources, they did not find any inefficiencies in any of these programs.”

Celena Roby, a parent and woman who took advantage of a state domestic violence program that could potentially see cuts, discussed how she was helped in her time of need.

“For 11 years I endured violence at the hands of a man who I thought loved me,” Roby said. “By the grace of God, I was able to survive, and even thrive, even though I had only 12 dollars in my pocket.  I hate to think what would have happened if I did not have these programs.”

Joyce Yedlosky, with the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said Tomblin’s 14.3 percent cuts in domestic violence funding will create greater risk of life.

“Funding cuts mean cuts to staff and services,” she said. “We estimate losing 7-14 full-time positions, resulting 560 victims of domestic violence who may not receive life-saving services.”

Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, said the economics of the cuts to the programs just don’t add up.

“We are at a point where we may get stuck spending more money over the long-run by making these cuts,” Guthrie said. “It doesn’t make sense to me, economically, to diminish the ability of these programs to leverage outside funding.”

Stephen Smith, director of the Healthy Kids and Family Coalition, said the governor’s office assured the funding would be in the final budget, yet the governor included them in his veto.

“There’s no better way to save money, and do by right by our kids, than to break the vicious cycle of poverty and violence,” Smith said.

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