Low wage trap elimination bill will help single parents.
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Lobbyist Money Help  

Low wage trap elimination bill will help single parents.

Date: April 11, 2012
By: Danielle Carter
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 727

A change in legislation may make it easier for single parents to pay for child care.
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Wrap:One in four. 

This is how many children in the US are cared for by single parents.

Being a single parent can often cause financial difficulties with child care - but Senator Robert Schaaf says he hopes to change this.
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Description: "It would be a money saver for the state, and it would help get these people out of poverty, where they're stuck now and help them improve their lot in lives. And it's a big deal."
Schaaf proposed a bill to create a pilot program called the Hand-Up program, which would assist families with child care.
While Missouri does provide some assistance with child care, there are limitations.
Current legislation sets an income benchmark for families. 
Once the family's income crosses the benchmark, the state takes away their child care assistance.
Sarah Bonner experienced the issue first hand.
While Bonner is now married with two sources of income for her young son, she still remembers how tough life was when she had to deal with the child care laws.

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Description: "It was like, how can you take over half of my benefits because I make thirty-seven dollars over, that doesn't...how do you see that math?"

She explained the current rules are not fair for single parents.

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Description: "They're seeing it as I want what I've earned, you know, you get so little in life at that point, you wanna get at least a little bit of something that you earned, so I think going down that road would not be beneficial. At all."

During her time as a single mother, Bonner worked at the CafÚ Via Roma.  Audrey Johanns, the cafÚ owner, says she tried to give Sarah more rewards based on her work.

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Description: "You know I said I really want to help her she's doing a great job, she's tried to support her family. So I gave her another dollar raise, and she turned around and said, 'Audrey, you are killing me.'"

Sarah could not take the raise or she would lose her child care support.
Audrey says once she realized what some single moms were going through, she decided to get involved.

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Description: "Many of these mothers, they're not deciding, you know, which retirement fund they're going to pay into that month, they're deciding which bill they're gonna pay. You know, is it the electric, is it rent, car payment, you know?"

Schaaf says he had similar feelings when he crafted the bill.
He decided instead of taking away all of the child care once a parent earned over the benchmark, the state should gradually wean welfare recipients off of child assistance.
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Description: "Forty four percent plus six percent is fifty percent, it's a nice round number. In other words every time a person earns another dollar, the state would get half, either in their taxes or in the premium."
Johanns says the program will help in several ways.

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Description: "By allowing them to have child care assistance so that they can continue to support their family until they work their way off. We're creating a future...a pool of kids who knows that that's what is expected of them when they grow up."

The bill garnered support from all senators except for one, who expresses concern over how much the legislation would cost the state.

Republican Senator Jim Lembke from St. Louis County says he thinks the bill came at a bad time.

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Description: "It may be a very good idea,it's just not timely right now. Again, to expand or add a new program to where we're already spending a hundred and eighty eight million dollars in taxpayer's money, to purchase child care, I just don't think it's the right time to do it."

The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 33 to 1.

The next step for the bill will be in the House, where it will be assigned to a committee.

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Danielle Carter.