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Latest Payment System Causes Funding Woes for VA Daycare Centers - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Latest Payment System Causes Funding Woes for VA Daycare Centers

Posted: Updated: April 25, 2013 06:17 PM EDT
Virginia Electronic Child Care Virginia Electronic Child Care

Virginia child care centers are losing cash - some are even closing their doors. It's all due to the latest system for how the state subsidizes child care.

The system was supposed to streamline how the state pays child care vendors, but they say that's not happening. Vendors say the new system is stripping them of cash they need to survive.

One daycare provider has already closed one center - Freedom Baptist Day School in Harrisonburg - and  now she's struggling to keep the other one above water - Littlest Lamb in Weyers Cave.

"My heart is for these kids. If these centers close, they can't afford to go anywhere else," said Pamela Johnson Houck.

Johnson Houck is fighting to keep her daycare center afloat. Two years ago, Virginia adopted a swipe system for government subsidized childcare with $13 million of stimulus money. Parents drop their children off and swipe a card (The Virginia Electronic Child Care Card), and when they pick them up, they swipe again. The card is similar to a credit card, in a point of service machine.

The system tracks how much the state owes the vendor for each day of care, for each child. That information then goes directly to the state, which pays the daycare vendor - but some parents aren't swiping.

"I have one that's been here for four months that had not swiped and she has four children," said Johnson Houck.

Johnson Houck fills out tedious paperwork to make up for missed swipes, but if she makes a mistake - as small as writing 13 instead of 2013 - it gets sent back, delaying payment again.

"We have over $10,000 just for the month of March owed to the center and the paperwork keeps getting returned," said Johnson Houck.

Social services says the state is buried in paperwork.

"The entire state including Northern Virginia, which has thousands of vendors, is on the same system, so if all vendors have to submit manual attendance, somebody has to process them by hand at the state and pay them," said Carmel Murphy Norris, social work supervisor.

Vendors have an online portal to monitor who is paying or not, but it has glitches, and child care providers say they have not been given enough training on how to use it.

Johnson Houck begs parents to swipe their cards.

"I realize it's a pain to have to come in, and you're busy, and you've got to get to work or your kids are crying and you want to get home, but you've gotta swipe your card," Johnson Houck said.  

Now, Shenandoah Valley social workers are stepping in to teach parents to swipe.

"We may need to be really hard-nosed about it and say look these guys have a job to do, they cared for your child, they need their money," said Murphy Norris.  

Vendors hope families will do their part to keep their children's daycare families afloat.

"We are a family. And we need to keep these families intact," Houck said.  

Johnson Houck is teaming up with other daycare providers to ask the state to cut down on the paper trail. In the meantime, regional social workers are working with parents to encourage them to swipe.

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