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Child advocacy group plans rally, vigil

By Whitney Burdette, Capitol reporter

Supporters of child abuse program, domestic violence prevention and other services at risk of losing funds are urged to call on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to restore budget cuts.

Tomblin in late March used his line-item veto power to cut $1.06 million from such programs and others. Our Children, Our Future, an advocacy group that works to eliminate poverty in the state, wants supporters to reach out to Tomblin and lawmakers and urge them to restore the cuts. Supporters are asked to travel to Charleston May 20 for a day of action.

Tomblin is expected to call the Legislature into a special session around that time to deal with the budget bill.

The group released a report in April outlining how the cuts could hurt child advocacy centers, family resource centers and in-home family education, among others. The report focused on the economic effects of cutting such programs. The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy found for every $1 invested in in-home family education, $5.07 is reinvested in the local economy.

Last week, Our Children, Our Future learned the $250,000 cut to in-home family education would violate the state’s contract with the federal government. As a result, $1 million in federal matching funds is at risk.

Stephen Smith, executive director of West Virginia Healthy Kids, one of the groups that makes up the coalition, said the May 20 event and others leading up to it signify one final push before the Legislature reconvenes.

“This event will either be a celebration or a call to action,” Smith said. “We hope that by then the 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.”

Last week, the group held a bipartisan press conference in Morgantown with members of the Legislature, including Delegates Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, Randy Smith, R-Preston, Erikka Storch, R-Ohio and Barbara Flesichauer, D-Monongalia. The lawmakers spoke to the importance of restoring the funds and urged the governor and lawmakers to work together to find a solution.

“As a Republican, restoring these funds is fiscally responsible,” Padson said. “Nothing is more important than investing in our kids.”

Smith said he sees how hard the programs work with little resources to make a difference to those who need them. To him, the answer is simple.

“This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s a kids issue,” he sad. “I don’t see how we can afford not to support these programs. People who work here aren’t doing it for the money, they are doing it to make a difference.”

Groups interested in attending the May 20 rally and vigil in Charleston can register online at www.ourchildrenourbudget.eventbrite.com or by contacting Smith at 304-610-6512 or emailing ssmith@wvhealthykids.gov.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.


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