Missouri program helped no one in 5 years

Hands Up Program

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new report shows that withheld funding and lack of follow-through effectively killed a program aimed at allowing Missouri residents receiving child support to accept wage hikes without losing state assistance.

The Hand-up Program was approved in 2012 to help lessen the so-called cliff effect of when the state cuts child-care assistance funding when a person’s income exceeds a certain threshold, the Springfield News-Leader (http://sgfnow.co/2nsclAS ) reported.

The program was supposed to help people receiving child-care benefits transition off the state allocations through a pilot program run by two organizations: Operation Breakthrough and Community Day School in Cape Girardeau.

But a report compiled by the Missouri Department of Social Services says no one enrolled, due in part to former Gov. Jay Nixon’s budget restrictions that delayed the program from starting until January 2014 and cut it off midway through 2016.

In 2015, 36 people were identified and contacted about the program, and the same went for 39 people in 2016. The report says few of those people expressed interest in the program and those who did either never completed the paperwork to determine eligibility or were deemed ineligible.

The report says one individual completed an application and was found eligible but didn’t enroll in the program due to the premium amount surpassing the family’s current monthly child care cost.

It’s not clear how the program was administered in Cape Girardeau. The Springfield News-Leader reports it couldn’t reach the person responsible for the Community Day School program for comment.

The impact was negligible in Kansas City.

“I have heard of it and that it had received some funding, but it was never implemented here, nor did we receive any funds,” Mary Esselman, CEO of Operation Breakthrough, said in an email.