Legislature weighs human services

By Rep. JESSICA BRUMSTED

As spring comes to Vermont, ever so reluctantly, we in the House of Representatives have been working extra hours on the floor to pass important legislation and send it to our colleagues in the Senate for further consideration. Among the many bills passed, the House Human Services Committee, of which I am a member, voted out:

H. 531, an act relating to Vermont’s child care and early learning system. When we worked on H.531, our Human Services Committee viewed it as a first step in addressing the current child care crisis in Vermont. If it becomes law, it will be part of a multi-year strategy to improve and strengthen child care laws and regulations, a priority of both the Legislature and the Administration. H. 531, which passed out of committee unanimously, does the following:

  • Invests $10.5 million in Vermont’s child care and learning system;
  • Expands income eligibility for child care for low and middle-income families;
  • Increases reimbursement rates to child care providers from 2008 levels to 2015 levels for pre-school and school age children;
  • Includes a student loan repayment program and funds scholarships for early educators to further professional development;
  • Invests in infrastructure and technology redesign of the Child Care Financial Assistance Program; and
  • Creates an exemption from certain educational requirements for child care business owners and teachers who have worked in the field 10 or more years.

The goal is to create more favorable conditions for Vermont families to access affordable, high-quality child care, so parents who want or need to work can which will also provide a continuing, robust supply of experienced workers for Vermont businesses.

H. 249, an act relating to additional Reach Up program benefits. Lack of transportation is one of the biggest obstacles facing impoverished Vermonters when trying to get and maintain employment, as well as trying to handle their family’s dental and other appointments, school schedules and other personal needs. This transportation barrier is exacerbated by the fact that two-thirds of Reach Up participants reside in rural Vermont communities with no access to public transportation.

The Department of Children and Families provides $6,000 toward a family vehicle, which comes from the department’s annual budget. The cars are repaired, inspected, matched to the size and needs of the receiving family, and come with a one-year warranty. H.249 would add $434 per car (to cover the state’s purchase-and-use tax and registration fee), removing an additional barrier to car ownership for Reach Up recipients, thereby increasing their opportunities to secure and keep jobs.

It is my pleasure to write that this past snowy Friday, Shelburne Community School children traveled to the State House where they were welcomed by the House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee and the Senate Economic Development, Housing & General Affairs Committee. They were there to advocate for wildlife protections for some of the world’s most iconic wildlife species in danger of extinction, a project they have been working on since June.  The students brought original artwork of endangered animals with them for every member of the House and Senate. Each drawing had a letters attached asking the Legislature to pass H. 99, an act that would prohibit the purchase, sale, offer for sale or trade of parts and products obtained from wildlife endangered species, which both Rep. Webb and I have signed onto as sponsors. It was very impressive to see these young people, who have worked so hard on this issue throughout the past year, come to the State House to advocate for support of this bill showing their understanding of the process, knowing that the decisions we make today will impact their futures and the futures of all our children and grandchildren.

Representative Webb and I will be at the Village Wine and Coffee for “coffee hour” April 13 from 8 till 9 a.m. Please be sure to let me know if you are planning a visit to the Statehouse, I would be happy to meet with you. The best way to reach me during the session is by email: jbrumsted@leg.state.vt.us.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

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