A Senate committee has heard that Missouri’s child care eligibility rules actually discourage young mothers from seeking jobs and keeps them in poverty.
Sister Berta Sailer started Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City in 1968. At that time, Operation Breakthrough provided day care to four children. Now, it serves 670 children. One hundred of the mothers who use the service are homeless. The youngest mother is 12.
"Most of our moms work at fast food, they work making beds in hotels and they work making beds in hospitals. There’s not a lot of upward mobility there," Sister Berta told a Senate committee. "And if they dare to do well, they will be punished."
That is because; if they receive a promotion, or get a better job or do anything to get more pay they will lose state health insurance coverage and state child care assistance.
Sister Berta said that if a mother does well, does everything the state wants her to do, such as getting a GED, getting off welfare and getting a job, it’s all over if she does well at her job. The state system at present, according to Sister Berta, discourages achievement and encourages poverty. She testified that it also discourages marriage, because the income a husband might bring to the marriage raises her overall income too high to qualify for child care assistance.
"If a mom marries somebody, she loses everything," Sister Berta stated. "If she lived with Bill Gates, she would lose nothing."
Sister Berta testified in favor of SB 94 , which would expand the eligibility of state child care assistance from the current 127% of the federal poverty rate to 140% with a sliding scale of eligibility up to 180%.