This Issue Update newsletter is part of a series that provides more information on each priority issue on the Alliance's 2023 Legislative Agenda. The Legislative Agenda is crafted annually in partnership with early childhood organizations that are advancing legislative policy solutions related to health, safety, food security, economic security, and early care and education. The nine priority issues were selected by the Alliance's 21 member Steering Committee.


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, without adequate funding Reach Up continues to fall short of its objectives. We must do more to ensure that families have the necessary resources to meet their children’s basic needs. Voices for Vermont's Children and our partners seek to improve the effectiveness and equity of Reach Up by increasing benefits, prioritizing housing stability, and modernizing program parameters to reduce barriers for adult caregivers. 

The current basic needs grants are set by the Commissioner and then reduced by roughly half by applying something called the “ratable reduction”. Year after year this unfunded obligation is noted by the Legislature, but despite some modest increases in the last two legislative sessions, neither the Scott Administration nor the Legislature has ever proposed appropriating adequate funds to meet the statutory purpose of the program. 

We know that when we adjust for inflation, today’s Reach Up grants provide less “buying power” than they did in 2004.  Our current structure holds families in poverty. When we acknowledge that poverty is a policy decision, we create the space for new policies to be created and implemented. The Reach Up Coalition celebrates this year’s introduction of H. 93 and H. 94. If passed, these bills would create an annual commitment to evaluating basic needs and housing grants, and would task the Administration with creating an actionable plan to eliminate the ratable reduction within the next five years.


Data and Talking Points

  • 10% of children between the ages of 0 and 8 live below 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL), and 6% of children in VT live in extreme poverty. 
  • The federal poverty level does not reflect the real cost of living, and Reach Up provides significantly less than even that amount.
  • Children are 54% more likely than adults to live in poverty in the United States. 

Lead Organization

Voices for Vermont’s Children

Voices for Vermont’s Children began as an informal alliance of human service and education advocates concerned about the status of children and youth in Vermont. Voices evolved into a statewide, multi-issue child policy research and advocacy organization that has shaped the landscape around child well-being in Vermont by advocating during the Vermont Legislative session, organizing and working in state and regional coalitions, providing up-to-date information, policy briefs, and fact sheets on issues important to children and youth, and convening workshops, trainings, and conferences.


Resources and Advocacy Tools


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.


7 School Street | Montpelier , Vermont 05602

The Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance is a program of the Vermont Community Loan Fund.

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