NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A discussion over whether families of undocumented residents will be eligible to receive a county subsidy for child care has appeared to spark interest in New Hanover County, according to emails made available to the public at the government building.
Last week, the board for the Department of Social Services clarified that children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants would be eligible for the county subsidy, but their parents would not be eligible for the benefit. The board matched state and federal guidelines on the subject.
In the current budget, county commissioners voted last summer to add $448,000 to help subsidize child care for working families in New Hanover County. Commissioners Woody White and Skip Watkins voted against that budget, which passed 3-2. To date, none of that money has been spent.
Commissioner White has asked that a discussion on this topic take place during an upcoming commissioner meeting. The county spokesperson indicates this item will be discussed during the meeting on March 7th.
However, constituents have been debating the issue with commissioners over the last several days.
Commissioner Watkins wrote:
Commissioner Jonathan Barfield represents commissioners on the DSS Board. He explained the board's decision.
Commissioner Rob Zapple, who voted in favor of the budget last year, indicated through email that he does not support the use of the child care money in this regard.
Commission Chairman Beth Dawson did not appear to indicate a position on the issue in her responses, but instead questioned the veracity of the report.
County Manager Chris Coudriet was not available to speak with WECT.com on this issue last week, according to a spokeswoman for the county, but did explain it to commissioners via email. Coudriet stated that "what is true for state and federal dollars is the citizenship or legal status of the parents of a child is not relevant in the decision making for subsidy if that child is a citizen. The board of social services, as I understand it, prefers to administer the county subsidy consistent with state and federal rules." Coudriet did indicate the initial intent was that the ability to "work lawfully" would have influenced whether county dollars would be used or not.
The DSS board said last week that 3.6 million dollars of an allotted 3.7 million federal and local Smart Start dollars have been spent so far on child care assistance.