W.Va. childcare providers and state reach temporary agreement to delay work stoppage event

W.Va. childcare providers and state reach temporary agreement to delay work stoppage event
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 2:31 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - Childcare providers and the DHHR have reached a temporary agreement to avert a potential statewide work stoppage event that had been scheduled for Monday, May 8, 2023.

At issue were a number of financial strains these centers were facing, some of which WVVA News has learned have been temporarily resolved.

Many of the problems pre-date the Pandemic, when many daycare centers across the state were on the brink of collapse. To qualify for state and federal funding, they had to provide care to a certain number of low-income children who qualify for state-subsidized care. But according to Melissa Colagrosso with ‘A Place to Grow’ in Oak Hill, there are major problems with that model. Under the state’s policy, she said centers were reimbursed by attendance instead of enrollment. That meant that if a child eligible for state subsidized childcare only showed up for two days that month, they could potentially be left hundreds of dollars short by the time the center was reimbursed the following month.

“You have to have a certain budget. You have to know a certain amount of income is coming in. Most providers would say, if you want me to care for your child, I need to know I’m going to have this amount coming in so I can pay the electric bill. And certainly, with large centers, we need to know we can be able to pay our staff.”

To help childcare providers survive the large drop-off in enrolled children during the Pandemic, the state changed the policy to temporarily reimburse centers by enrollment instead of attendance. Colagrosso said the state was about to revert back to the old policy when Senator Vince Deeds, (R) Greenbrier County, stepped in. She said he was able to secure a temporary agreement with the DHHR to provide millions in additional dollars to continue paying reimbursements by enrollment through August of 2024.

In an interview with WVVA News, he remembered the struggle of having two working parents in the home all too well. He is hopeful that lawmakers will be able to find a more permanent fix in the next legislative session. “We want everyone’s input on how best to finance this and provide good childcare for all of our families.”

The temporarily agreement will help buy more time for a permanent funding fix for a system that Colagrosso said ends up also hurting middle income families.

“Most providers or centers would have to budget for that (uncertainty) by charging private paying families more to ensure I have enough money to be able to function and meet my bills and obligations.”

She would also like to see the state offer better benefits to daycare workers, such as childcare assistance and education funding, to help address worker shortages.

In a state with the lowest labor force participation rate in the country, she said it is an issue that affects everyone, whether they are a parent with no place to send their kids or an employer who cannot hire workers.

“All the childcare providers have waitlists, and we can’t add more daycare centers because the math doesn’t add up. It’s a failed business model.”

The West Virginia Association for Young Children will be hosting a series of town halls in an effort to look for solutions to these problems. The next one in Southern West Virginia is set for May 11, from 6- 7:30 p.m. at Hollowell Park at 186 Matthews Street in Lewisburg. Welcome (wvayc.net)

In an effort to secure long-term solutions, it is important to point out that some providers across the state will still be participating in the work stoppage event set for Monday, including Busy Bees in Beckley.

WVVA News reached out to the DHHR for a statement on the resolution and received the following response from a spokesperson:

“The initial additional funding for provider reimbursements based on enrollment came from American Rescue Plan Act dollars, which expire in September 2023. The Department will utilize TANF funds as a temporary solution to maintain enrollment-based reimbursement through next year. DHHR was not aware of threats of work stoppages; however; continuing to reimburse providers on the basis of enrollment has been our goal.”