Child care law invests in future generations

With the passage of the groundbreaking legislation, Vermont takes a decisive stand in support of families — and places our smallest, most vulnerable Vermonters at the forefront

BRATTLEBORO — In June, the Vermont Legislature demonstrated strong commitment to families by overriding the governor's veto and enacting the 2023 Child Care Bill into law.

This landmark legislation, investing $125 million annually into the child care system through sustainable and fiscally responsible public investment, stabilizes Vermont's child care sector. It also represents a monumental leap forward in providing accessible, high-quality child care for all Vermont families.

By championing this law, Vermont has positioned itself as a national leader in child care, an achievement that should fill us all with pride.

The law's expansion of eligibility means about 7,500 more Vermont children and their families will have access to child care financial assistance. Increased public funding will help bolster child care programs' staffing and capacity. The law sets the stage for increased investments in Vermont's early childhood education workforce and in minimum-pay standards for educators.

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Growing up with a mother who worked as a child care provider in Vermont, I witnessed firsthand the paltry compensation she received for her invaluable contribution. For years, my mom made just $7 an hour. At my high school job, I made more than she did.

During my U.S. Senate campaign last year, as I biked across Vermont, I heard from fellow Vermonters about the exorbitant costs of child care and their arduous struggles to secure available slots.

One man here in Windham County told me he was spending as much on child care as the cost of college tuition. Many families are allocating nearly a third of their household income toward child care expenses.

And yet, child care workers are still among the lowest-compensated workers.

This reality has stayed with me and shows the urgency of investing in our state's child care system.

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Providing more resources to our state's child care system is a farsighted decision that holds immense benefits. With long-term and sustainable public funding, we will empower thousands of parents, particularly women, with the option to reenter the workforce. This will enhance the financial stability of Vermont families and bolster our state's economy to the tune of millions of dollars.

Having worked in Federally Qualified Health Centers for over eight years, caring for new families and supporting frontline workers, I have personally witnessed the critical role of early childhood care.

As we grapple in Vermont with challenges like houselessness, incarceration, and addiction, it becomes imperative that we adopt a long-term perspective and invest in future generations.

To fund the new child care subsidy, a simple payroll tax will be implemented. The tax, amounting to less than half a percent (0.44%), is shared between employers and employees.

This modest cost will yield immense rewards for families, businesses, and communities, ensuring access to affordable child care and impacting the lives of thousands. It's no surprise that dozens of businesses across Vermont endorsed this initiative.

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While my husband Derrick and I do not currently have children, the concept of collectively supporting families resonates deeply with us. Parenting is a journey filled with sacrifices and challenges.

A tax system based on income helps alleviate the burdens faced by families. None of us can predict when we may need assistance, and investing in the well-being of the next generation of young Vermonters will ultimately improve all our lives.

The term "family values" has been used as code language to advance homophobia and social conservatism. However, right-wing opportunists do not hold a monopoly on valuing families: Families are a fundamental unit in our society.

For Vermonters to have better lives, we need to make life easier for our families. The new law epitomizes this notion by extending material support to parents, and it grants breathing room they and their children need to thrive.

With the passage of the groundbreaking child care law, Vermont takes a decisive stand in support of families - and places our smallest, most vulnerable Vermonters at the forefront. They are the very embodiment of our future.

By thanking our state legislators for their commitment to child care and expressing gratitude to child care providers, we can celebrate this historic achievement and further propel our state towards a brighter future.

Isaac Evans-Frantz serves as the executive director of a national nonpartisan organization that campaigns for U.S. policies to save lives around the world. To learn more about the law's impact on you, your family, and Vermont's economy, visit bit.ly/731-childcare.

This Voices Viewpoint was submitted to The Commons.

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