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High income essential workers getting child care financial assistance has contributed to early depletion of funds

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Essential workers like nurse case manager Shanna Goodwin thought they’d be getting financial help the entire school year for child care, but they got a letter from the DHHR saying funding allocated for that has already been exhausted.

“It was such an abrupt announcement,” Goodwin said. “Everyone was caught off guard.”

In March, the CARES Act allocated $23 million in federal dollars for child care, with a portion going to support essential workers needing child care.

Goodwin and her fellow essential workers are wondering why that funding, which they were told would last 12 months, is already nearly gone.

A spokesperson for the DHHR says since there was no income limit on who could get assistance, families who had high incomes used the program, as well as families who almost meet typical subsidy guidelines. With the program being used by so many people, the federal funding was quickly depleted.

After Sept. 30, to be eligible for COVID-19 critical child care, family incomes cannot exceed certain DHHR guidelines. For example, a four-person family wouldn’t be eligible for assistance if their income is more than about $3,200 a month.

“We’ve got parents struggling, calling every family member they have the night before, asking to keep their kids,” Goodwin said. “It’s just extremely stressful, so the one constant everyone was counting on and let everyone breathe a sigh of relief was their childcare was taken care of. They knew exactly where their kids were going to be, it was a safe environment, it was paid for because this money was there.”

Goodwin had planned to have her kids doing virtual learning at a daycare in Winfield. Had she known the financial help would be ending so soon, she would’ve made other plans.

“Literally days after pulling them out of school, allowing them to go virtual, trying to figure out this whole pandemic, the rug was pulled out from under me,” she said.

With school districts potentially not doing in-person classes any given week because of West Virginia’s color-coding system, paying for daycare this fall could be an extra financial burden essential workers didn’t think they’d have to worry about.

“I know 15 nurses on one unit who have been counting on this child care certificate,” Goodwin said. “If you take away all their funding all at once, and they don’t have a backup plan, that’s 15 nurses from one unit that could possibly be calling in because they don’t have child care.”

Copyright 2020 WSAZ. All rights reserved.

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