(The Center Square) — The Joint Commission on Audit and Legislative Review released an October study that shows Virginia’s self-sufficiency programs are largely not producing the desired results and that Existing child care does not meet the needs of many Virginians in more ways than one.
“Self-sufficiency,” in the context of the programs studied, is defined as the achievement of a standard of living at which basic living expenses are assured.
THE study Of the 856,000 households in Virginia that do not meet this standard, only about 1 percent participate in state-administered self-sufficiency programs. Of these, most do not ultimately achieve economic self-sufficiency.
In fiscal year 2022, “only 9,900 households participated in the primary program intended to move poor Virginians toward self-sufficiency, the Virginia Initiative for Education and Work,” while approximately 1,160 households participated each month in the state’s other program in 2022, the supplemental program. Nutrition Assistance Program for Employment and Training, according to the report.
Outcomes were evaluated for approximately 265,000 participants in these programs and regular SNAP from 2018 to 2022, and JLARC found that the programs did not have a notable impact on employment rates and that “although half of them saw salary increases by 2022, the group’s median salary remained below the federal poverty line.
Additionally, fewer than 2% of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and SNAP recipients per year between 2018 and 2022 took advantage of services offered by the state’s workforce development system.
JLARC also assessed child care across Virginia and found that child care was unaffordable under the federal definition for about half of the state’s households, with only not enough child care providers to meet demand and that there were several problems with the state’s child care subsidy program. make it less useful than necessary.
The federal government defines child care as affordable at or below 7% of a household’s family income.
“Infant and toddler care costs exceed 7 percent of household income for more than 80 percent of Virginia families, and the cost of preschool education exceeds 7 percent of household income for 74 percent. hundred of Virginia’s families,” according to the report.
The commission also determined that at least 140,000 households in need of child care in Virginia do not have access to it due to the low number of child care providers.
Finally, although Virginia has expanded its child care subsidy program with federal COVID relief funds, those funds will soon dry up – and even with them, it cannot offer subsidies to all eligible families. And even if the state could provide subsidies to all families who need them, fewer than half of child care providers participate in the subsidy program.
JLARC offered several recommendations for legislative and executive actions to help address some of the current deficiencies in the state’s self-sufficiency programs and the child care subsidy program.
The commission proposed that the Legislature require coordination between social services offices and local workforce development boards; social services should be able to inform recipients of state assistance programs of the employment and training resources available to them. It also mandates the creation of several pilot programs to test and improve aspects of VIEW and other self-sufficiency programs and recommends including employment requirements for eligibility for child care subsidies.
His executive recommendations included developing “modern workload goals” for these programs, establishing policies that help programs allocate and spend all of their program funds, and developing a process to “ reimburse child care subsidy program providers based on enrollment rather than attendance.”