For a comparatively small expenditure, one program to help low-income West Virginia children has made a wonderful difference in many lives. It is the state's school clothing voucher project, for which applications are being accepted now.
For only about $12 million a year - not much in terms of social initiatives - the clothing voucher program helps more than 60,000 children each year. It aids their families in dealing with the cost of clothing and provides better - sometimes warmer - garments for the children. But we think the program's most important benefit can be guessed from its name: school clothing vouchers.
Children from low-income families sometimes have to wear hand-me-downs and/or obviously well-worn garments to school. Because small children often can say hurtful things; that means such youngsters can be subjected to ridicule. That can damage their self-esteem, making it more difficult for them to do well in school.
Ensuring that children from low-income families have at least a few new garments when they go back to school in August is an important way of boosting their classroom achievement, then.
One of Gov. Joe Manchin's first moves on taking office was to insist that the amount of vouchers provided be increased. It had been $100 per child but was increased to the current $200 level.
Children whose family incomes are $1,767 a month or less qualify for the vouchers, which can be used at most stores in the Mountain State.
Applications are being accepted until July 31, so, if you're interested in participating, you should contact the local office of the Department of Health and Human Resources (or call the state customer service center at 877-716-1212).
We are especially proud of our state's role in the program, because it goes back so many years. The program was established in 1975. We are also proud of the fact that state officials always have found ways to ensure that enough money was available for the program. They believe that through its history, no eligible child ever has been turned down.
The program is an excellent one - in which taxpayers can see their dollars used wisely.