A Child Poverty and Medicaid Expansion Forum convened Sunday, May 5, at the St. Frances of Assisi Catholic Church Social Hall. Keynote speaker was Stephen Smith from the WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.
Smith was the director of organizing for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and is the author of Stoking the Fire of Democracy: Our Generation’s Introduction to Grassroots Organizing. A graduate of Harvard University and the London School of Economics, Stephen has worked with a wide range of communities – from running a for-profit bakery operated by people with disabilities to founding a youth advocacy organization that won victories on health care and financial aid.
Smith addressed the recent signing of the Medicaid Expansion Program by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and its effects for West Virginia residents and state government. Attendees were invited to relate how the program may impact family members, friends, or someone known to them.
The expansion is extended to the working poor, typically those earning a minimum wage. An additional 166,000 West Virginians could become eligible for insurance. A well workforce saves money for everyone.
“Potential future funding of the program from state funds would most likely be offset by the savings generated from the program’s implementation,” Smith said at the forum.
Child Poverty in southern West Virginia was discussed.
Smith said that although there are people who abuse the system, the actual percentage of West Virginia residents receiving cash welfare assistance is 1.2 percent. That is a much lower figure than the numbers estimated by the audience. However, many children still experience hunger and lack opportunities to fully benefit from education.
The School Lunch Program, as well as other programs in operation, serve to sustain many students who would otherwise go hungry. Logan County is fortunate in that there are several programs in place to aid students. Educational opportunities can be compromised by lack of exposure and background experience that many of our students encounter.
“The Child Poverty and Medicaid Expansion Forum was very informative,” said Tammy Lukacs, a forum participant, “Child poverty is a big issue in West Virginia, and it was interesting to learn about the programs around the state that are working together to improve the quality of life for the children of our state. Stephen Smith was a knowledgeable speaker, who provided insight into the cost of poverty in West Virginia. It doesn’t concern only those living in poverty. It affects everyone.”
Smith concluded by outlining several initiatives, in which interested parties can become involved if they are interested in being part of a change that can make a difference.
Entertainment at the forum was provided by Kaitlin Boytek and Jane Bragg. Photography was by Boothe Davis.
The event was co-hosted by David Graham and Dorothy Spiech-Baisden, with support from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, and from the WV Center on Budget & Policy who provided printed literature.
For more information about WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition visit: www.wvhealthykids.org/