2022 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.
Legislative Agenda Issues
BACKGROUND: Reach Up is tasked with improving the well-being of children by providing for their immediate basic needs, including food, housing, transportation, and clothing. However, the program has never been fully funded and so continues to fall short of its objectives. Reach Up has the potential to be much more effective as one of the tools we have to create the societal conditions for children to thrive. With 35% of children between the ages of 0 and 8 in Vermont living in households that make less than 200% of the federal poverty-level income, we must do more in order to get families to the subsistence level of income, housing, health, and security. This can be accomplished by increasing the grants, and structuring the program in a way that is restorative rather than punitive.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports Voices for Vermont’s Children in their request that the Legislature eliminates the “ratable reduction” that reduces the benefit by about 50%; uses current cost of living to create a reasonable base grant; and prioritizes permanently affordable housing. We also support Voices’ request for an inquiry into the use of surveillance and sanctions in the Reach Up program, their effectiveness, and the impact they have on children and families.
ISSUE WEBPAGE: Ending Child Poverty is Within Our Reach
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Voices for Vermont’s Children
BACKGROUND: With the near unanimous passage of H.171 during the 2021 legislative session (including $12.7 million in investment in Vermont’s early childhood education system), the General Assembly clearly demonstrated that child care is essential to Vermont’s children, families, employers, and economy. Major problems persist in Vermont’s early childhood education system. Over 60% of Vermont’s youngest children don’t have access to the child care they need, and those families that do find care may spend more than 30% of their income on child care, even with financial assistance. Furthermore, Vermont is facing an acute workforce crisis in child care, exacerbated by chronically low wages and the demands and pressures of providing early childhood education during a pandemic.
PROPOSAL: To prevent program closures across the state and ensure we continue to make progress towards achieving long-term transformation in the child care system, the Alliance supports the efforts of LGK and VTAEYC in securing short-term, emergency one-time investments to provide a needed lifeline to ensure our child care system is strong and stable, and continuing on the path outlined by H.171 to permanently transform Vermont’s early childhood education system, including funding the child care financing study established in H.171.
ISSUE WEBPAGE: Transform Child Care
LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Let’s Grow Kids and 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, 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.
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 human services programs that prevent and reduce homelessness; improving the health and safety of the state’s rental stock; and ensuring that the Emergency/General Assistance Program continues to effectively serve and house Vermont children and families who are in need. We also support VAHC’s efforts in rental housing safety such as a standardized statewide inspection process, and a centralized location for rental housing owner information.
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. CIS has been shown to be effective in mitigating the effects of childhood trauma for thousands of Vermont families. In 2021 CIS received its first increase in funding since it started in 2009. However, the demand and actual costs to the 12 regional non-profit agencies that provide services have steadily increased. There is a critical lack of capacity to serve children and families that struggle with multiple risk factors including increased child welfare involvement, exposure to parental opiate use, poverty, homelessness, and autism prevalence. CIS also lacks a common data system, meaning both state agencies and providers lack the ability to compare outcomes, track client progress, identify improvements and efficiencies, and make real-time changes to their service plans as needed.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the lead organizations’ efforts to secure an increased investment of $1.8 million in CIS, which would meet the cost of care and ensure continued progress on family safety and stability, healthy child development, and young children’s access to quality early childhood education. A one-time investment of federal pandemic relief funds of $1.6 million is needed to build a statewide CIS data reporting platform.
LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Vermont Parent Child Center Network, Vermont Family Network, and Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development
BACKGROUND: During the next legislative session, the Governor and Legislature will be deciding what to do with hundreds of millions of dollars of uncommitted, “one time” federal pandemic relief funding. In addition the state is projecting hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus funding from better-than-expected tax revenues in FY22. Together these present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest millions of dollars in state programs addressing Vermonter’s health, safety, food security, economic security and early care and education.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance will be working with our members and lead organizations to support expenditures of these funds to expand equitable, well-coordinated, and sustainable opportunities for children and families that are developed and governed with meaningful input from all who live here, and that support a vision of a state that works for every person living here, no one excluded. In addition, the Alliance will press for a serious discussion about tax reform and an end to austerity budgeting, which has reduced the capacity of local institutions and state government to deliver high-quality services and be accountable to funders and taxpayers.
ISSUE WEBPAGE: Ensuring Funding for Critical Early Childhood Programs
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance
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 nutritious food access, support teachers’ knowledge of nutrition, and address childhood obesity. At the same time that 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 nutritious 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 & Early Childhood grants. The Alliance supports Vermont FEED and champion organizations in their efforts to increase annual funding to $500,000 for the state’s Farm to School & Early Childhood program. This level of funding ensures early childhood settings serving children ages birth through grade three can access program funding for gardening and farm visits, food procurement planning, professional development, and infrastructure and equipment.
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.
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. A paid family and medical leave insurance program, be it federal or sponsored by the state, will support the health, well-being, and economic security of Vermont’s children and families and ensure that future generations thrive.
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: Every student should have access to the same things while at school, whether it’s educational opportunities or food. As part of the federal response to the pandemic, students in Vermont have been able to eat school breakfast and lunch at no charge since March 2020. These measures are only temporary, however, and schools will lose the federal waivers providing universal school meals at the end of the current school year. Then, children will once again be divided into categories based on income that determine how much they must pay to receive a meal at school, and face the stigma associated with eating free meals. Permanent universal school meals will mean that students will be more ready to learn, and school administrators will have more positive relationships with students’ families.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports Hunger Free Vermont’s Universal School Meals Campaign, which is advocating that the state requires all public schools to provide universal school meals, and that the costs of school meals not covered by federal funding be paid for collectively through the Education Fund rather than in individual school budgets. After nearly two and a half years of universal school meals, students can’t have meals taken away from them next school year.
ISSUE WEBPAGE: Make Universal School Meals Permanent
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Hunger Free Vermont