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Early Childhood program advocates call for May 20 vigil at the Capitol

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Advocates from across the state are asking folks to travel to Charleston on May 20 to call on the Governor and lawmakers to restore $1.06 million in budget cuts to Early Childhood programs.
On March 23 when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin used his line-item veto power to cut several early childhood and domestic violence programs from the FY2015 budget passed by the legislature. This included over $1 million in cuts to In-Home Family Education, Family Resource Networks and Starting Points Family Resource Centers, Child Ad­vocacy Centers, domestic violence programs and services, and child abuse prevention.

Opponents of Tomblin’s cuts said 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.

Organizers hope the May 20 vigil will serve as a visible peak to what they say is a growing wave of momentum to have the cuts restored.

“This event will either be a celebration or a call to action,” said Stephen Smith with the WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, one of the groups involved with the Our Children, Our Future Campaign – the alliance that is leading the push.  “We hope that by then legislators and the Governor will have worked together to find a solution, but if not, we will be ready to strongly make our case one last time.”
Smith said several events around the state demonstrate support for restoring the funding:

— On April 23, press outlets across the state published stories based on a Report released about the cuts by the Our Children, Our Future Campaign, in partnership with the WV Center on Budget and Policy. The report revealed that cuts could jeopardize $14 million in short-term, leveraged dollars from federal programs and private contributions.

— On April 24, it was learned that the state’s $250,000 cut to In-Home Family Education program would constitute a violation of the state’s contract with the federal government – putting at-risk $1 million in federal matching funds.

— On April 25, eight Republican lawmakers, including House Education Minority Chair Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia,  and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, urged the Governor to restore the cuts – citing that the programs represented a “hand-up” out of poverty, not a “handout.”

— Also on April 25, leaders from the Our Children, Our Future Campaign met with Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss and DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling.  While the Governor has not yet added the Early Childhood Cuts to a possible special session, Secretaries Kiss and Bowling pledged to work with advocates to search for ways to restore the funding.

Smith expects women lawmakers to join together on Tuesday to add their voices to the effort at the Capitol.

Smith said groups  interested in attending the rally and vigil in Charleston, should register at www.ourchildrenourbudget.eventbrite.com. For more information about vigil or the Our Children, Our Future Campaign, they can visit www.wvhealthykids.org or contact =Smith at [email protected] or 304.610.6512.

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