The Alliance's weekly newsletter includes policy updates, legislative news, and events related to the Alliance's Legislative Agenda. Stay informed by checking the Alliance's Facebook page. To share early childhood advocacy news with the Alliance to be included in future updates, email Sarah Galbraith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legislative Session Adjournment Approaching
With adjournment looking likely around May 17, the legislature is getting to make-or-break points for bills still under consideration. Read below for updates on early childhood issues on the Alliance’s 2019 Legislative Agenda.
Housing & Homelessness
While it appears that the funding cuts proposed by the Governor will be restored, proposals for additional investments have not gotten traction. Most notably, the proposal in the Senate to create a second housing bond has been replaced by a study of the issue by the Treasurer, who raised concerns about how such a bond would be financed. The House will be considering the proposal next. Advocates are also pushing for a closer look at why the state is not making investments in service programs that, if funded, would enable the state to draw down additional federal housing vouchers for which the state is eligible but are not being accessed.
Reach Up Funding
While the House budget did not include additional funding for Reach Up, the Senate Appropriations Committee is sending signals that they will make at least a small increase in the Reach Up grant for the first time in 15 years. How much remains to be seen, and any proposals will have to be negotiated with the House. Meanwhile, the Senate is still considering the proposal to move Reach Up case management from the Parent Child Centers into Agency of Human Services regional offices. Alliance members oppose this proposal.
Family & Medical Leave Insurance
The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs continues to take testimony on H. 107, the family and medical leave insurance bill, and is expected to vote out the bill this week. The House bill would provide all Vermont workers with up to 12 weeks of paid leave for welcoming a new child and up to eight weeks to care for a family member or one's own illness or injury. To write an Op-Ed in support of this bill, contact Molly Gleason at email@example.com.
Farm To School and Early Childhood
The House FY20 budget level funds the Farm to School and Early Childhood program, which represents a $50,000 increase over the Governor’s Recommended FY20 budget. Advocates hope that members of the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider increases in their deliberations. H.79, a bill clarifying eligibility for Farm to School grant assistance, recently passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and will be voted on the floor this week.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is starting to wrap up work on their version of the FY20 budget, and is expected to vote out a bill by early next week. The bill will then go to the full Senate for consideration. Based on that schedule, a House-Senate Conference Committee would begin meeting around May 13 to iron out differences, and need to work quickly to reach agreement before the May 17 adjournment target.
While there are many points where the House and Senate budgets will differ, it seems likely that this negotiation will go relatively smoothly. Similarly, while the Governor has indicated disagreement with some of the provisions proposed by the House and Senate, a veto of the budget seems unlikely. How long it will take for negotiators to get to full agreement, however, is not certain.
Children’s Integrated Services (CIS)
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is expected to give the CIS program another strong vote of support this week, taking the same step as the House Human Services and Appropriations Committees and rejecting the cut to CIS funding proposed in the Governor’s Recommended FY20 Budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee will be taking up the issue later this week, and is expected to follow suit.
Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) and Workforce Investments
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is currently considering H. 531, and is expected to vote the bill out by the end of the week. The committee will likely make modest changes to the bill, slightly reducing the additional funding to update CCFAP rates, as well as making reductions and changes to the workforce investments. However, the underlying features of the bill are likely to remain intact. Alliance lead organizations and advocates are closely following these considerations.
Once the Health and Welfare Committee passes out the bill, it will go to Senate Appropriations for further consideration. Support for the proposed investments remains very strong in the House and from the Governor. The final version of the bill will be subject to negotiations between the House and the Senate, and will be influenced by budget negotiations as well.
Parent Child Center (PCC) Network Master Grant
Although the House Appropriations Committee has agreed to accept the proposal in the Governor’s Recommended FY20 Budget to end the Reach Up case management contracts with the PCCs (see above note), the Committee also decided to add $1.2 million to the PCC Master Grant (the PCC Network request is to add $1.5 million this year). In addition, the House Appropriations Committee decided to allocate $1 million of one-time funds to the PCCs to catch up on some expenses that have been put aside because of ongoing inadequate funding (the Network has requested $1.5 million in one-time funding). In the Senate, the Network will continue to work to increase both the Master Grant and the one-time allocation, and to get the Reach Up contracts back as well. For more information on the PCC effort, contact Amy Shollenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is universal consensus among the scientific and medical community that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for young children. The Administration and Legislature have identified the elimination of lead in drinking water in schools and child care facilities as a top priority this legislative session. S.40 has been working its way through the legislative process and is up for debate on the House floor this week. It would require – and fund – testing of drinking and cooking water outlets in all schools and child care facilities in the state, and would require remediation for any facilities that show lead levels above the “actionable level,” set at 3 parts per billion in the Senate bill and 5 parts per billion in the House version.
The bill proposed by the House would provide full funding – up to a designated cap – for replacement of faucets that have lead levels over the acceptable level. Child care facilities are already required to test drinking water; this bill would establish an updated testing process and a new “action level” at which remediation (usually replacement of faucets) would be required. The bill will likely go to conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Our Work: Join the Alliance's 5th Annual Membership Meeting
Registration is open for the Alliance’s Fifth Annual Membership Meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 29 from 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm at the Zenbarn in Waterbury. This event brings together early childhood professionals and providers, parents, business leaders, and funders from around the state to reflect on the Alliance's advocacy during the 2019 Legislative Session and brainstorm innovative ideas for 2020. The meeting will include the election of Steering Committee members, plus time for socializing.
The Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance is a statewide coalition formed in 2000 of early childhood professionals, parents, organizations, businesses, and strategic partners committed to improving public policies that impact young children between birth and age eight in the areas of health, safety, food security, economic security, and early care and education.
The Alliance crafts an annual Legislative Agenda in partnership with early childhood organizations, provides year-round advocacy support, and facilitates meaningful interactions with policymakers at key times during the decision making process.