WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., made steps Tuesday in the fight to authorize funding for a federal program that provides health care insurance for children and their families.

Congress did not reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program by Sept. 30, putting those who receive coverage from the program at risk of losing it.

More than 21,000 children in West Virginia are among those covered by CHIP, which is an option for families with incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid.

The state is expected to freeze program enrollment on Feb. 28 unless it is reauthorized.

Manchin said in a statement he is planning to speak on the Senate Floor in favor of reauthorization, asking those affected by CHIP to share their stories with his office so he may read them on the floor.

“I know your stories will inspire my colleagues to reauthorize the CHIP program so millions of kids aren’t in limbo and parents can rest easy knowing that their child has health care,” he said.

Manchin’s office said anyone can email their story to chip@manchin.senate.gov, and people are also welcome to send a picture of their family.

Manchin’s website also includes a timer counting down to Feb. 28.

Capito sent a letter to Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who also chairs the Senate Finance Committee, urging him to extend funding before the end of the year.

“I share your passion for this program and will continue to work with the Committee and Senate Leadership to move the reauthorization forward as soon as possible,” she said.

CHIP began in 1997, with West Virginia adopting a state version the following year.

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