The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

May 16, 2014

Groups pleading for reversal of social service funding cuts

While lawmakers pack their bags to attend interim and special sessions in Charleston next week, proponents of some state social services are packing messages for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, pleading with him to restore more than $800,000 to budgets he cut in March via his line-item veto.

The Our Children, Our Future Campaign orchestrated its second press conference call Thursday with state residents who have used or are using social services to punctuate their importance.

After the first call, held earlier this month, Tomblin shuffled money already in the state budget to shore up budgets for the Children’s Trust Fund, In-Home Family Education and the Domestic Violence Legal Service Fund with $260,000. That move restored the trust fund and the legal service fund to their pre-veto levels.

Tomblin’s vetoes took the social services line items back to the budget he submitted to the Legislature in January.

Even with nearly a quarter of the budget restored, Jim McKay, state director of Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, said the cuts would have “a profound impact on” Family Resource Networks/Starting Points and Family Centers, Child Advocacy Centers and grants for Domestic Violence Programs and Statewide Prevention.

McKay said the budget transfers were not a long-term solution.

In addition to families losing services through these programs, the cuts mean a loss of 80 jobs for the state, according to a media release sent by the campaign.

McKay said Tomblin “does not appear likely” to add the budget revisions to the call for  the special session, which as of now will address a flaw in the minimum wage bill and funding for the Courtesy Patrol. But McKay said the governor can add social services funding to the call, even after the special session is enacted.

“He’s the governor; it’s clearly in his hands to address this issue,” McKay said. “He’s found that kind of money for other priorities.”

Our Children, Our Future will hold a rally at the State Capitol on Tuesday, where he said they “expect broad support.” McKay said the programs had gotten bipartisan support at events around the state.

Among the people who spoke in favor of funding the programs Thursday, an adult survivor of child sexual abuse from Mercer County said the programs that help children are “the most important.” Because of physical abuse in her home, she said, her mother fled with the children.

“We spent a lot of time running, sleeping in cars and living in shelters,” she said. “I desperately ask (Gov. Tomblin) to put the funding cuts back.”

“Life shouldn’t be this hard here in West Virginia,” she said. “I’m trying really hard to succeed in West Virginia.”

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