2023 Legislative Agenda
The Alliance’s Legislative Agenda is crafted annually in partnership with early childhood organizations that are advancing policy solutions through the legislative process related to health, safety, food security, economic security, and early care and education. The following nine issues were selected by the Alliance’s 21-member Steering Committee. One or more lead organizations will direct legislative and advocacy strategy on each issue.
See below for a description of each of the issues included on this year’s Legislative Agenda.
Legislative Agenda Issues
BACKGROUND: Reach Up is tasked with improving children’s well-being by providing for immediate basic needs, including food, housing, transportation, and clothing. Partial funding has meant that the program continues to fall short of its objectives. We must do more in order to create economic security for families and eliminate the experience of poverty and improve child well-being.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports Voices for Vermont’s Children in their request that the Legislature eliminates the “ratable reduction” that reduces the Reach Up benefit by about 50%; uses current cost of living to create a reasonable base grant; and prioritizes permanently affordable housing.
ISSUE WEBPAGE: Ending Child Poverty is Within Our Reach
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Voices for Vermont’s Children
BACKGROUND: In the last legislative biennium, the Legislature passed historic legislation that set three goals for the state’s child care system: that every child has access to quality child care; families spend no more than 10% of their income on child care; and early childhood educators are fairly compensated and well supported.
PROPOSAL: Based on the work undertaken in the last biennium, in 2023 the Alliance supports the efforts of Let’s Grow Kids and the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children in advocating for long-term funding to achieve five priorities that will be phased in over four years:
• Affordability: Transform Vermont’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program so that all Vermont families who need it receive support from the state to afford child care
• Support for Early Childhood Educators: Increase wages, benefits, and overall support
• Governance: Create a single, empowered leader in state government who is charged with overseeing Vermont’s child care and early childhood education system
• Accessibility: Support the growth of Vermont’s early childhood education workforce, increase capacity of programs, and ensure that all children have access to a program that best meets their needs
• Equity: Through specific programs to support families of color and other people marginalized by systemic inequities in Vermont, increased affordability, child care capacity development, and better support for early childhood educators and child care programs
ISSUE WEBPAGE: Transforming Child Care
LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Let’s Grow Kids and the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children
BACKGROUND: As a key social determinant of health, safe, stable, and affordable housing is essential to children’s well-being and success. Housing instability, homelessness, and unsafe housing contribute to childhood trauma and adverse developmental outcomes. Increasing state investments in affordable housing, reducing homelessness, and improving the health and safety of rental housing are critical to improving children’s health and well-being.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition in securing full statutory funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board; promoting continued state investments in programs to prevent and reduce homelessness; improving the health and safety of the state’s rental housing stock, and stability for renters; and ensuring the availability of General Assistance/emergency housing for Vermont children and families who are in need.
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition
BACKGROUND: Children’s Integrated Services (CIS) delivers evidence-based and informed services to families with young children as part of a coordinated continuum of care across multiple types of providers and settings. Thanks to state funding increases over the last two years, the case rate paid to providers is now closer to the actual cost of services. However, CIS referrals are currently increasing statewide, which is creating CIS program budget deficits for both FY23 and FY24.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the lead organizations’ efforts to secure an increased investment in CIS to support increased demand. In addition, the Alliance supports the proposed one-time investment to build a statewide CIS data reporting platform.
LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Vermont Parent Child Center Network and Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development
BACKGROUND: Parent Child Centers (PCCs) were established in Vermont statute in the late 1990s. Since that time, the PCC Network of providers has become more formalized and has worked to establish consistency and quality in service delivery for families across the state. PCC base funding was increased last year, but funding levels do not cover the actual cost of providing services.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the PCC Network’s effort to secure base funding for PCCs of $10 million, up from the current $4.8 million, to cover the actual cost of providing services and address decades of underfunding.
ISSUE WEBPAGE: Strengthen and Support Parent Child Centers
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Vermont Parent Child Center Network
BACKGROUND: Nearly every working Vermonter at some point will need to take time away from their job to care for or bond with a new child or to deal with a serious personal or family illness. However, very few Vermonters have access to parental leave or personal medical leave through their employer. Federal and state laws allow certain eligible employees to take unpaid leave for these purposes, but many cannot afford to take leave when they need it.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance will continue to support the Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition in advocating for passage of a publicly overseen insurance program that creates universal paid medical and family leave for all workers and families in Vermont.
ISSUE WEBPAGE: Universal Family and Medical Leave for All Workers
BACKGROUND: From March 2020 to June 2022, the federal government made Universal School Meals available to all children in Vermont and around the country as part of their pandemic response. These past three years of Universal School Meals has proven the benefits of the program for students, families, schools, and staff. The federal waivers making this possible expired in the summer of 2022. Anticipating this, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed Act 151, indicating their commitment to continuing to make Universal School Meals available to all Vermont children.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports Hunger Free Vermont’s plan for ensuring that all public schools will be able to permanently provide meals for all children with the cost paid for by the Education Fund.
ISSUE WEBPAGE: Make Universal School Meals Permanent
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Hunger Free Vermont
BACKGROUND: The Junior League of Champlain Valley (JLCV) founded their entirely volunteer-run diaper bank in 2018 to provide diapers to low-income Vermont families in Chittenden County. Five years later, the program is now statewide and increased demands have outpaced the organization’s ability to administer and organize it effectively.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports JLCV’s efforts to secure ongoing funding of $380,000 to support a long-term Vermont Diaper Bank that will work with the existing network of community partners to secure and distribute diapers to low-income Vermont families and alleviate diaper need in the state.
ISSUE WEBPAGE: A Sustainable Statewide Solution for Diaper Need
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Junior League of Champlain Valley