Thompson calls for MDHS investigation

By The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson wants an audit of how Mississippi spends child care funds for low income working families.

Mississippi Department of Human Services officials, who administer the program, tell The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/UlWJGV) that they have not been contacted about Thompson’s request to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’ve not been contacted by our federal partners regarding this request and feel it would be inappropriate and premature at this time to comment,” MDHS spokeswoman Julia Bryan said.

Thompson, D-Miss., said in the letter that his office has received numerous complaints from licensed child-care providers who participate in the federal child-care certificate program. Thompson says “unreasonable” demands are being made of providers.

“Child-care providers allege that these demands are causing many facilities to face closure,” Thompson wrote.

MDHS wants parents who receive federally subsidized child care vouchers to use finger scanners to sign youngsters in and out of child care. MDNS said it will better track when children are present and absent, allowing the state to save money. Child care operators, who are already facing cutbacks in the federal funding that pays for the vouchers, are alarmed that the scanners would take even more money away from them.

Other than a pilot program, the scanning won’t go into effect before Feb. 1, according to a court agreement.

Mississippi and Louisiana are the only two states employing biometrics fingerprint scanning as a tracking device; and about 800 of the 1,600 licensed child care centers in Mississippi participate in the Child Care Certificate Program.

The federal voucher program was established to help low-income parents afford child care while they work. Parents are responsible for a co-pay.