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HUNTINGTON — About 3,400 families in West Virginia utilizing state-subsidized child care for essential workers will be able to continue to do so through the end of 2020.

Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday, Sept. 16, that the program, set to end this month after federal funding was exhausted, would continue by committing an additional $6 million in CARES Act funds to the cause.

“West Virginia has received a total of $23 million from the CARES Act to provide support for our state’s child-care network,” Justice said. “These funds were depleted and this program was set to end on Sept. 30. But we’ve been working really, really hard in trying to find a way through DHHR that we could continue this on if the federal government drops this off, because we feel it’s really important.”

The support has become even more critical recently for many essential working parents in the state as several counties started school either virtually or on a blended model, leaving their children in need of care several days a week.

For Shea Hayes, a Cabell County mother, the support helped her and her husband tackle the added expense of child care throughout the spring and summer, and will continue to do so during the school year.

“Considering I would love to be home with my daughter during this and just can’t due to my husband and I both working at a local hospital, the help has been huge,” Hayes said. “Having one child to pay for the three days she isn’t in school is hard enough. I cannot imagine multiples.”

Hayes said many of her friends have also utilized the essential worker funding, and she was devastated when she received a letter last week announcing the rollback of the assistance.

On Thursday when Justice announced the continuation of the program, Hayes said she couldn’t help but cry happy tears.

“It’s an absolute necessary thing to provide funding to,” she said. “I am beyond thankful.”

Becca Tomblin, a parent in Huntington, was also utilizing the support and said she is proud of the state for dedicating additional dollars to help families, especially after feeling like she was “in the dark” for the past week.

“I’m glad they were working on this all along,” she said. “They were being really quiet, but I’m glad they decided to do the right thing.”

Justice said he is hopeful the federal government will provide further aid to backfill the expense.

“But even if they don’t, we’ve got the money; we’ve figured it out,” he said. “We’re going to be able to continue the day-care funding for our families and essential workers through the end of the year, so that’s some good news.”

Parents who are essential workers, regardless of income, can find child-care assistance applications online and email, fax or drop them off at their local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.

Link CCR&R serves Cabell, Putnam, Wayne, Mason, Lincoln, Mingo, Logan and Boone counties, and its Huntington office, located at 611 7th Ave., Suite 100, can be reached at 304-523-9540 or 800-894-9540.

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.