Children & Family Advocacy Groups Push Legislative Agenda
Children of all ages from across West Virginia gathered at the Capitol yesterday for the Our Children, Our Future campaign's fourth 'Kids and Families Day.' Created in 2014, the group puts together an annual legislative platform which this year includes 12 policies they think would improve the lives of West Virginia working families. Here's a look at three of those proposals:
State Earned Income Tax Credit:
This year, the Our Children, Our Future Campaign wants the state to create an earned income tax credit. The federal government already offers a similar tax credit for working, low-income families. It comes in the form of a refund that comes around tax time every year. It’s meant to provide families with a lump of cash that could help them get ahead financially. Advocates say a state version would not just help families, but also the economy since most families use that money to purchase necessities.
Carry Jo Grace is the Regional Organizer for the West Virginia Healthy Kids & Families Coalition, and she’s also a mom. She spoke at the Our Children, Our Future event at the Culture Center Tuesday. She explained how much the federal earned income tax credit has helped her family.
“Getting a few hundred or a thousand dollars from the federal government, because we were a hard working family, meant that we could do things like buy our own washer and dryer and not have to truck off to the laundromat every week," Grace said, "It meant that we could do things like pay for our kids to go to a day camp in the summer time when I was taking classes, instead of trying to find neighbors who could babysit the kids while I went to class.”
Grace says other families like hers would benefit even more if West Virginia had its own version of the tax credit.
300 Rural Community Centers:
The Our Children, Our Future Campaign also wants state lawmakers to use public schools to help create community centers throughout the state. The proposed legislation looks for ways to provide extra money for staffing, so community schools could remain open and provide resources for local children in the afternoon and the evenings. Advocates say the community centers would help kids stay more engaged in their communities and away from drugs or other illegal activities.
Second Chance for Employment Act:
Our Children Our Future Campaign is also reintroducing the second chance for employment act. The act was introduced into the House last year. It provides a way for some convicted felons to have their record cleared after serving their time in prison.
Democratic Delegate Mike Pushkin of Kanawha County is the lead sponsor of the bill. He says the bill will allow people to go back to work and provide for their families
“When you’re talking about these folks that need to get back to work, a lot of them have kids, and they’re better able to provide for their kids, you know, with better jobs,” Pushkin noted.
Chris Kimes is the Government Relations Director for the Our Children, Our Future Campaign.
“Sometimes people get kind of caught off guard when we talk about tax or jobs or different things with child poverty, you know, all this funnels in, because this is opportunity," Kimes explaines, "We know in West Virginia, if we’re gonna increase our workforce participation rates, if we’re gonna increase companies and jobs in West Virginia, education’s a key to that, and right along with education is the fact of a healthy workforce.”
In the past four years, 21 pieces of legislation advocated for by the Our Children, Our Future Campaign have passed out of the West Virginia Legislature.