WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Board for the Department of Social Services in New Hanover County clarified its policy Tuesday in regards to offering child care services to those who are not citizens.
According to the updated minutes approved Tuesday morning, New Hanover County will offer a child care subsidy to children born in the United States to undocumented parents, but the parents are not eligible for the benefits. Another board member did clarify that "although undocumented parents may be limited, the law states the parents may receive welfare on behalf of their U.S. born children."
New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield indicated Monday evening that the board wanted to align its services to match federal guidelines on the subject.
"It's a national discussion right now as we're talking about closing the borders and it's a lot of the political rhetoric on the federal and state level," Barfield says. "At the end of the day, part of the DSS mission is to serve the needs of our families and our children and that's our mission and we can't go against federal guidelines."
Fellow commissioner Woody White called for this to be discussed by the full Board of Commissioners at an upcoming meeting.
In an email to commissioners Tuesday, White said, "I am displeased that the DSS Board is trying to apply federal guidelines to county tax dollars. Our citizens worked hard to pay these taxes, and we should not be in this business to begin with. But since Dawson, Barfield and Zapple allowed this in the budget this year, the least we can do is prevent illegal residents from benefiting (sp) from these dollars."
"I don't think anyone realized that illegal aliens or their children would have access to this money and the citizens of New Hanover County have been ringing my phone off the hook, emails off the hook and texted off the hook and that's just the tip of the iceberg," says Skip Watkins, fellow Republican New Hanover County Commissioner.
Deputy County Manager Avril Pinder explained at the DSS meeting that there has not been a need to spend the money set aside by the county on child care subsidies so far. To date, DSS has spent 3.6 million dollars in childcare, while receiving 3.7 million dollars from the federal government and the local Smart Start program. The board voted to add the $448,000 county budget for child care subsidies to the next fiscal year budget.
Commissioner Barfield pointed out there is still a wait list for these services in the county. Since July, DSS has mailed out 980 letters to families to request they come in to complete the subsidy application. 380 families have taken advantage of that offer.