Brumsted: H.531 can help tackle the childcare crisis in Vermont

Rep. JESSICA BRUMSTED

Editor’s Note: The following was written by Shelburne Rep. Jessica Brumsted regarding the Let’s Grow Kids press conference in Shelburne on April 4 and the child care crisis in Vermont.

Let me first thank all of you at Ascension Childcare, Inc.  I am so impressed with your incredible work and the strategic investments you have made to increase available child care spots here, in an environment where children grow, learn and thrive  – all due in part to partners like Let’s Grow Kids

As a mother of four children, three step-children and seven grandchildren, I know how important quality accessible child care is for all Vermont families.  I know how worries about it weigh on those families.  I know how parents make difficult career changes because of lack of child care.  And I know how owners of really great child care centers struggle to stay open when there is not enough money coming in to pay qualified employees.

I want to make a difference for these families.  Now.  When I won my first election two years ago, I was determined to focus my knowledge of and interest in quality affordable child care, accessible to all families.  I knew that working with many others, we could, in fact we had to, begin to improve this situation. And that is what is happening.  With the help and encouragement — and persistence — of many of you here today, I joined with colleagues on my Human Services Committee, representing the full political spectrum in the State House and coming from diverse communities throughout the state, and we crafted a bill that will provide quality child care for our youngest and most vulnerable Vermonters while improving employment issues for parents and for businesses and will, in fact, improve the state’s economy.

All of you here know the facts:

  • 70 percent of children under the age of 6 have all available parents in the workforce
  • half of all infants and toddlers who need care do not have access to regulated child care
  • Child care slots have dropped by 300 in recent years and we aren’t seeing enough new programs opening to replace those that have closed
  • Child workers make a median wage of $12.71/hour, a wage situation stagnant for the past 10 years
  • And many families pay up to 40 percent of their income for child care if they can find it.

With H.531:

  • we invest $10.5 million in Vermont’s childcare and early learning system,
  • we increase reimbursement rates to childcare providers,
  • we include a student loan program for early educators to further their professional development, and
  • we invest in the revamping of the Child Care Financial Assistance Program

We accomplished our work with the unstinting help of private partners like Let’s Grow Kids as well as philanthropists, business leaders and others.  With that help,  I am proud to say that last week when we reported H.531 on the House floor, every single member present voted  “yes!”

  • Yes, because this bill makes a substantial investment in the entire child care system
  • Yes, because this bill makes a commitment to working families and their children,
  • Yes, because this bill gives our child care providers and the workforce new support and opportunities and
  • Yes, because this bill is good for Vermont employers.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Any society which does not care for its children is no nation at all.”  How proud we can all be today as H.531 moves through the legislative process to the governor’s desk to becoming law, a law that shows the care we do have for our children and their families in what Calvin Coolidge called this “Brave Little State of Vermont.”

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