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 that are related to health, safety, food security, economic security, and early care and education. Each year, issues are selected by the Alliance’s 21-member Steering Committee. One or more lead organizations will direct legislative and advocacy strategy on each issue. 

Scroll to the bottom section of this page to download previous years’ agendas and results. 

2021 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

The following issues are included in this year’s Legislative Agenda.

More information about each issue can be found by clicking the Priority Issue Webpage link at the bottom of each section below.

The 2021 Legislative Agenda is also available as a downloadable PDF.

 
 
Early Session Update
On February 23, 2021, the Alliance released its 2021 Legislative Agenda – Early Session Update.

Please note that all of these issues are currently under consideration, and developments continue on a daily basis that may make this information no longer accurate. To get more information about any of these issues, please be in touch with Matt Levin, Alliance Executive Director, at mattt@vecaa.org.

 

Legislative Agenda Issues

BACKGROUND: Reach Up, Vermont’s basic safety net for children and families with extremely low incomes, does not provide sufficient support to prevent deprivation. Families are receiving less than 40% of what they need for a subsistence living, and even with additional benefits like 3SquaresVT the families most in need of basic assistance are appallingly under-resourced, while expected to overcome barriers to employment and move toward self-sufficiency. After many years of advocating for base grants to be increased to meet the survival needs of children, we are focusing our 2021 ask on housing. Given that housing is the most significant unmet need, we are calling for an expansion of the Vermont Rental Subsidy to provide a voucher for every Reach Up household that is homeless or at risk of homelessness.

PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports Voices for Vermont’s Children’s proposal to provide a Vermont Rental Subsidy to every Reach Up household that is homeless or housing insecure in order to prevent the well-researched damaging effects of homelessness on children’s physical health and wellbeing. Only 25 to 30% of Reach Up households have Section 8 housing vouchers or reside in project-based subsidized housing, leaving the vast majority with almost inconceivably insufficient resources ($700/mo. for a family of three outside Chittenden County) to cover housing, transportation, and other basic living expenses. This is insufficient to cover the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in most towns in Vermont, and leaves families with nothing for other costs of living, and on a perpetual cycle of eviction and homelessness.

LEAD ORGANIZATION: Voices for Vermont’s Children

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Reach Up Funding

BACKGROUND: Child care is essential for Vermont families, but three out of five of Vermont’s youngest children do not have access to the early childhood education they need. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated already pressing challenges, making it even harder for families to find affordable high-quality care for children birth to five. This is making it more difficult for early childhood education programs that cannot find and retain qualified educators. Without a high-quality and affordable early childhood education system, Vermont cannot fully recover and grow its workforce, support young families, or set its youngest citizens up for future success in school, relationships, work, and life.

PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports its members’ efforts to advance legislation that establishes state goals for affordability, access, and quality and lays the foundation of our future early childhood education system by:

  • Restructuring the Child Care Financial Assistance Program to cap family co-payments at affordable rates and establish goals for fair compensation for early childhood educators;
  • Formally convening experts and stakeholders to develop plans for raising new revenue as well as system coordination and accountability;
  • Fully funding an updated IT system critical to effective and efficient administration; and
  • Increasing strategic investments in early childhood education workforce development and early childhood education program capacity.

LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Let’s Grow Kids and Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Child Care is Essential

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, ACEs, and negative outcomes. Increasing state investments in affordable housing, reducing homelessness, and improving the health and safety of rental housing are critical to improving children’s outcomes. Housing investments have been key to maintaining health and safety during the pandemic. No one can stay safe at home unless they have a safe, stable affordable home.

PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition in securing full statutory funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, increased rental assistance and supportive services, and statewide housing code enforcement. The state’s chronic underfunding of housing needs means we must find equitable new revenue sources, like a proposed tax surcharge on high-end homes.

LEAD ORGANIZATION: Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Affordable Housing

BACKGROUND: CIS maximizes young children’s health, development, and learning by providing individualized support to families and early care and education programs. These essential and federally mandated services are designed to lessen, if not eliminate, the need for future services that are costlier and less efficient. CIS has been shown to be effective in mitigating the effects of childhood trauma for thousands of Vermont families. Since CIS began in 2009, funding has remained flat, while the demand and actual costs to the 12 regional non-profit agencies that provide these services have steadily increased. This leads to a critical lack of capacity to serve children and families who struggle with multiple risk factors including increased child welfare involvement, increased exposure to parental opiate use, poverty, homelessness, and increased autism prevalence. By fully funding CIS now, the state of Vermont will save seven to ten times that amount as a return on investment by preventing the high cost consequences of childhood trauma in adults including incarceration, chronic medical conditions, substance abuse, and suicide.

PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the lead organizations’ efforts to secure an increased investment in CIS, which would ensure continued progress on family safety and stability; healthy child development; and young children’s access to quality early care and education. A statewide CIS budget increase in the amount of $2.8 million would allow the 12 regional non-profit agencies that deliver CIS to continue to meet the needs of children and families.

LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Vermont Parent Child Center NetworkVermont Family Network, and Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Children’s Integrated Services

BACKGROUND: Building Bright Futures (BBF) fulfills an essential role as Vermont’s early childhood State Advisory Council (SAC) mandated by state and federal statute to uphold the vision and strategic plan for an integrated system, and serves as the primary advisor to the Governor and legislature on the status of children and their families from the prenatal period to age eight. As a public-private partnership, only 18% of BBF’s operating expenses of $1.2 million are supported by state allocation, which does not cover the cost of executing the majority of statutory responsibilities that BBF successfully and consistently delivers. BBF improves the well-being of each and every child and family in Vermont by using evidence to inform policy and bringing voices together to discuss critical challenges and problem-solve. Lacking this coordination, data, vision, and strategy, the state cannot provide Vermont’s children and families the programs and services they need.

PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports BBF’s request for the state to increase their base funding by $261,000 to adequately support the work of the SAC, Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan, and 12 regional councils required to respond quickly to critical requests from the legislature and public and private community partners. The BBF infrastructure strengthens the whole early childhood system, in particular by leveraging resources; bringing in significant federal funding; and creating clear and compelling cases for further investment, reducing duplication, building agency capacity, building trust through collaboration, integrating service provision to address fragmentation, and maintaining an accountability infrastructure to monitor progress.

LEAD ORGANIZATION: Building Bright Futures

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Building Bright Futures Funding

BACKGROUND: The State of Vermont has for many years offered Special Accommodation Grants (SAG) to early care and learning providers to assist with the expense of caring for children with special needs. Most often SAGs pay for a one-to-one aide to support children with special health needs, such as a feeding tube, or children on the autism spectrum or with behavioral issues who need extra support to stay safe in the early learning setting. With this extra support, children are then able to participate and benefit from high-quality early care and learning, and in turn, their parents are able to work. The SAG grants have always been in high demand across the state, and $350,000 in annual funding is usually depleted by February or March of each school year, leaving some children without critical supports. 

PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the lead organizations’ request that the state fund SAGs in the amount of $500,000, and in order to more fully integrate this with specialized child care services that the administration of SAG grants be part of CIS Specialized Child Care, with an appropriate increase in funding. This investment will give children with special needs increased access to early childhood education, support the work of early childhood educators and CIS providers, and is in keeping with the state’s goal to provide truly integrated services for families. 

LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Child Care ResourceVermont Family Network, and Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development.

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Special Accommodation Grants

BACKGROUND: Vermont Farm to School is a nationally recognized initiative that supports Vermont’s economy, communities, and the healthy development and learning of Vermont’s children. It has been shown to influence eating habits, create healthy lifestyles, support experiential learning opportunities, improve healthy food access, support teachers’ knowledge of nutrition, and address childhood obesity. As Vermont works to provide high quality early childhood services, as many children as possible should receive the benefits of the Farm to School and Early Childhood program – access to healthy foods, food and nutrition education, and community connections.

PROPOSAL: In 2017, Act 63, the Farm to School bill, was signed into law allowing both registered and licensed child care providers to be eligible for Vermont Farm to School grants. The Alliance supports Vermont FEED and champion organizations in their efforts to increase annual funding to reach the goal of $500,000 for the state’s Farm to School program. This funding level ensures early childhood settings serving children ages birth through grade 3 can access program funding for gardening and farm visits, food procurement planning, professional development, and infrastructure and equipment.

LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Vermont FEEDVermont Farm to School NetworkHunger Free Vermont, and the Vermont Farm to Early Childhood Coalition (For more information on the Farm to Early Childhood Coalition and its work, please contact Cynthia Greene at cgreene@shelburnefarms.org)

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Farm to School and Early Childhood

BACKGROUND: Parent Child Centers (PCCs) were established in Vermont statute in the late 1990s. Since that time, the Parent Child Center Network of providers has become more formalized and has worked to establish consistency and quality in service delivery for families across the state. However, state statute and state funding has not kept up with changes in the Network and the services that PCCs provide.

PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the PCC Network’s effort to pass legislation to bring a new level of formality into statute and establish clear accountability for PCCs as they deliver essential state services. In addition, the proposed legislation establishes a base funding amount for PCCs that gets closer to covering the actual cost of providing services, plus an annual increase to this base amount.

LEAD ORGANIZATION: Vermont Parent Child Center Network

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Strengthen and Support PCCs

BACKGROUND: At some point, nearly every working Vermonter 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 family and 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. A statewide family and medical leave insurance program will support the health, well-being, and economic security of Vermont’s children and families and ensure that future generations thrive. 

PROPOSAL: The Vermont legislature will introduce a new Family and Medical Leave Insurance bill in 2021. The Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition stands ready to work with the legislature to establish a strong, equitable, public, and affordable Family and Medical Leave Insurance program in Vermont. The Alliance supports the FaMLI Coalition in advocating for passage of a strong bill in 2021.

LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Main Street Alliance of VT and Voices for Vermont’s Children

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Family & Medical Leave Insurance

BACKGROUND: Every student should have access to the same things while at school, whether it’s educational opportunities or food. Right now, not every student has access to school breakfast and lunch. Instead, children are divided into categories based on income that determine how much they have to pay to receive a meal at school. This means that many children don’t get the good nutrition they need to learn well because their families can’t afford to pay for meals or because of the shame and stigma associated with being a “free lunch kid.”

PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports Hunger Free Vermont’s efforts to ensure that every student can eat at school every day, regardless of their caregiver’s ability to pay, by requiring all public schools in Vermont to provide universal school meals by 2025. When schools switch to a universal school meals model, more students of all incomes eat school meals, the social climate in the cafeteria and the entire school shifts as differences in family income become less visible, students are more ready to learn, and school administrators report more positive relationships with students’ families. By requiring all public schools to provide school meals as part of a student’s education, and by providing state funding to supplement the federal funding all schools receive, all students and schools will experience these benefits.

LEAD ORGANIZATION: Hunger Free Vermont

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Universal School Meals

BACKGROUND: Nearly 1 in 3 Vermont households has faced food insecurity since the pandemic began, and households with children are twice as likely to be facing hunger. Lack of healthy food during early childhood is linked to health problems, developmental impairments, social and behavioral problems, and challenges in school. Hunger is related to negative health outcomes resulting in higher health care costs for the state.

PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the Vermont Foodbank’s request for a $500,000 state allocation to fund Vermonters Feeding Vermonters, a program to purchase locally grown, fresh food directly from Vermont farmers and producers to distribute to people facing hunger. This investment from the state would improve the health of adults and children in Vermont, provide financial security to local farmers, and strengthen the Vermont economy. This program can provide long-term benefits for Vermont, and is especially critical right now as a key tool addressing the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

LEAD ORGANIZATION: Vermont Foodbank

PRIORITY ISSUE WEBPAGE LINK: Vermonters Feeding Vermonters

Previous Years' Agendas