2022 Legislative Agenda Mid-Session Update – Early Childhood Issues in the State House
Legislators are approaching the half-way point of the 2022 legislative session, and many issues on the Alliance’s 2022 Legislative Agenda are moving through the legislative process. House Committees are finalizing their letters to House Appropriations, with recommendations for spending to be included in the House budget.
The House Appropriations Committee will be considering these letters in the coming days.
Meanwhile the Legislature is taking steps to return to in-person operations, with the House now working in the building and the Senate expected back after Town Meeting break. It’s exciting for us to get back to working in the halls and being able to carry our messages to legislators directly.
Lead organizations continue to work on legislative strategy, develop talking points, and support advocates in the State House. Learn more about the issues and connect with these organizations on the Alliance’s Legislative Agenda page.
Tell us which issues are most important to you by taking the Alliance survey.
Be a part of the action! Sign up to attend ECDL ’22 on Wednesday, March 9. This is a great opportunity to connect with representatives from our lead organizations, learn more about the early childhood policies on our legislative agenda, and build your advocacy experience by connecting with your legislator during lunch.
HOUSING & HOMELESSNESS: Increase Access to Safe, Stable, and Affordable Housing for all Children
The Governor’s Recommended FY23 Budget proposes significant one-time investments in housing development and rehabilitation. The proposals, however, do not include full statutory funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB). The House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee strongly endorsed funding VHCB at their full statutory allotment in their budget letter to House Appropriations.
The Rental Housing and Safety Bill, S. 210, passed the Senate on February 10 and is now being debated in the House General, Housing, and Military Affairs committee. Advocates are hoping the bill will pass this session.
FARM TO SCHOOL & EARLY CHILDHOOD: Nourishing Children’s Bodies and Minds
The Governor’s Recommended FY23 Budget proposes to level fund Farm to School and Early Childhood (FTSEC). Fully funding the program at $500,000 in the FY23 Budget would ensure that children ages birth through grade three can access programming for gardening and farm visits, food procurement planning, professional development, and infrastructure and equipment.
The House Agriculture Committee supported fully funding FTSEC at $500,000 in their budget letter to the House Appropriations Committee.
CHILDREN’S INTEGRATED SERVICES (CIS): Vital Support for Vermont’s Families
The Governor’s Recommended FY23 Budget includes level funding for CIS compared to FY22. Advocates are pressing for additional funding, and have succeeded in securing the support of the House Human Services Committee. The Committee is recommending an increase in the case rate from $600/month to $650/month in their letter to House Appropriations. This increase would mean an additional $800,000 in annual funding for the program – still short of actual cost of care, but a badly needed increase.
Advocacy also continues in support of the request for $1.6m in one-time funds for the development of a system-wide CIS data system. The issue has been considered in several House Committees, and both the House Human Services and Energy & Technology Committees are supporting the request in their budget letters to House Appropriations.
TRANSFORMING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION (ECE): Equitable, Affordable, Sustainable ECE for Children Birth to Five
The Governor’s Recommended FY23 Budget includes increases to CCFAP rates, and an increase in the number of sick/absent days that providers can take with reimbursement. These proposals will make further progress on affordability for families, but do not address the acute staffing crisis child care programs are currently facing across the state.
Advocates are asking the Legislature to concur with the Governor’s proposals, and to include additional, emergency, one-time investments to support early childhood educators to enter and stay in the field right now.
PARENT CHILD CENTER NETWORK INTEGRATED GRANT: Strengthen and Support Parent Child Centers
This month, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted to support S. 91, which would update statutory language that authorizes the creation of Parent Child Centers, and appropriate $1.5m in base funding and $3.7m in one-time funding to the Network. The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the bill next.
Meanwhile, the House Human Services Committee has included support for both funding requests in their budget letter to the House Appropriations Committee. Advocates are watching the House Appropriations conversation closely and are hoping that the committee will include these requests in their budget.
UNIVERSAL SCHOOL MEALS: Make Equitable Access to School Meals Permanent
Last year, the Senate passed S. 100, a somewhat limited bill that would make universal school breakfast permanent. S. 100 is now in the House Education Committee, but has not yet been taken up.
Advocates are hopeful that the Committee will take up the bill in March and amend it to make both universal school breakfast and lunch permanent. The amended bill would then need to pass the full Legislature this year in order to become law.
REACH UP: Ending Child Poverty is Within Our Reach
The Governor’s Recommended FY23 Budget proposed a significant funding decrease for Reach Up, based on a projection for caseload reductions that Alliance members have found to be unrealistic. The House Human Services Committee has agreed with that critique, and is recommending to the House Appropriations Committee that the FY23 budget not include the proposed reduction, and that any “savings” that result from declining caseload be reinvested through one-time payments to Reach Up families.
Meanwhile, this week the House Human Services Committee is considering some of the proposals contained in H. 672, a bill that would make a number of improvements to the Reach Up program, increase benefits, and create more housing stability. We will know more about the fate of the specific proposals in the bill in the coming days, as the Committee continues its work.
FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE INSURANCE: Improving the Health and Well-Being of Vermont Families
The FaMLI Coalition continues to monitor possible action on the implementation of a comprehensive leave insurance program on the federal level. In the meantime, the Coalition has been urging the Senate Economic Development to support the creation of a state-level program that would provide short-term wage replacement for workers who have to miss work because of COVID-related issues. Advocates are pushing for a program that provides leave to care for yourself and a family member or a child who has lost school or child care for COVID-related reasons, and that provides robust wage replacement that meets the needs of everyday Vermonters.
STATE BUDGETS AND EXPENDITURES: Ensuring Funding for Critical Early Childhood Programs
The House Appropriations Committee and the various policy-focused House committees are continuing to work on their version of a budget for FY23, which begins in July of this year. As it does every year, their work starts by considering the Governor’s Recommended Budget. The Governor’s Recommended FY23 Budget contained a few surprises, and only a few proposed funding cuts. One of them, regarding Reach Up, is discussed above.
More significantly, the Governor’s budget included several tax credit proposals that would potentially benefit young children, families, and early childhood service providers. However, House leadership has decided to focus instead on their own tax proposal, a smaller version of the federal Child Tax Credit that expired earlier this year. That proposal, H. 510, has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.
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.
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The Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance is a program of the Vermont Community Loan Fund.