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Parents ask Youngkin to 'put families first' in upcoming budget review

Families struggling since the beginning of the pandemic want legislators to focus on parental needs in the upcoming state budget review Monday.

NORFOLK, Va. — In a Zoom press conference Friday morning, leaders with the Commonwealth Institute of Fiscal Analysis and Voices for Virginia's Children laid out their plans they sent to state legislators.

According to the Virginia Dept. of Health, 10.6% of Virginia's population is living in poverty. You can compare that to the national average of 13.4%.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved very challenging for Virginian families but even more challenging for single parents trying to make a decent living wage.

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Emily Smarte from Waynesboro attended the virtual press conference to voice her concerns. A single mother of a 5-year-old, she said she worked hard to find a living wage this past year.

Now with inflated prices, she said it's even harder to keep up.

"It's a struggle being a single mom at all, but especially a single mom who is not making as much money as I need to keep up with the cost of living," said Smarte. "Getting the federal child tax credit was a big help for me as far as childcare costs because the childcare costs are almost as much as my rent! It's a giant expense."

Virginia family and children advocates are now trying to help people like Smarte get some relief. They submitted a plan to Gov. Glenn Youngkin to consider as he approaches the state budget review.

The plan includes a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit. This would help put approximately $500 back in families' pockets who are on a tight budget. 

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The plan also calls for a one-time tax rebate for parents.

Advocates for Virginia families even stressed the need for fully funded K-12 schooling to support families in need of after-school programs.

It's a change Emily Griffey with Voices for Virginia's Children said is possible with the state's budget surplus. The state budget at the end of 2021 had a surplus of about $2.6 billion.

"What we're asking is that the budget includes the dependents in that calculation, so if you're a single parent like the parents here today, you're not just getting $300. You're getting money for you and the children in your household," said Griffey. "So, we hope there's room in the final negotiations with the placeholder in the budget."

Griffey said advocates reached out to the governor's office, but they have not heard back.

The Earned Income Tax Credit, among other proposals, is included in the state Senate's budget. The General Assembly will enter a special work session for the budget this Monday.

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