Sep 7, 2023

Child Care Programs Await Act 76 Readiness Payments

Chris Nelson, owner of Mountain View Child Care

Authored by Chris Nelson, owner of Mountain View Child Care in North Troy.

I remember trucking my four children to child care ahead of my workday back in the ‘90s. More than an hour’s travel left no quality time for our family. That’s why I decided I’d stay home with our kids. As more and more families needed child care, I opened Mountain View Child Care – a regulated home child care program. To date, my program has served the North Troy community for 28 years.

And while decades have passed and I now host the next generation, the biggest challenge of running a child care program remains consistent: I never know for certain how much money I will make. Families come and go as they need to; age groups vary from year to year; I update policies and procedures yearly to deliver the best quality curriculums. There’s a cost involved in all that moving and changing.

It's always worth it though. As a program owner and educator, I witness firsthand children’s excitement when they learn something new, and living that experience with them will always be magical.

Act 76 – the 2023 Child Care Bill – just made enjoying those moments that much easier. Act 76 recognizes all the work that early childhood educators do, why we do it, and why it’s worth investing in. And for the first time in nearly 30 years, I don’t have to pit facility updates with program improvements; I can plan my next 5 to 10 years in a way that is meaningful for my business and the children and families I serve.

I filled out the Readiness Payment application shortly after it opened two weeks ago. The readiness payments are state funds aimed at supporting stability, expansion, and quality in early childhood education; they can cover anything from roofing repairs to program materials! The application was short and clear, and it took less than 10 minutes to complete. The monthly payments to child care programs offer $75 per enrolled child, with additional weighted items like toddler care, specialized services, accepting subsidies, and secondary languages. With these criteria, I will receive up to $1,500 monthly, starting at the end of September, to bolster my program.

Apply now for readiness payments.

In this industry, we’ve never been able to look at the full potential of what we can accomplish, and now all ideas can and should be entertained. My kids requested a ninja rope course; I’m considering resigning from one of the three jobs I work to make ends meet. Whether I do one or both, I’m thrilled for myself and my peers. This investment will support the financial and mental wellbeing of my fellow educators. It’ll sustain our programs, and support the best care for our kids and their families.

The best part of the readiness payments: this is just the beginning of all the investments Act 76 makes in early childhood education. For the first time, this state funding is not just a Band-Aid; it will help child care programs grow our capacity and reward passionate and dedicated educators. I urge programs to fill out the application and trust that it’ll create more breathing room, more opportunities, and a bigger cushion for larger projects on your to-do list.

Chris Nelson has been involved with the early childhood profession for over 20 years as the owner and educator of a 5-star home-based program, the first program in the state to achieve stars. She has provided support to peers and the profession as an instructor, a professional development specialist for the Council of Professional Recognition, a qualified observer for the Northern Lights career ladder and a member of the VTAEYC board. In 2016, Chris was recognized as an Early Childhood Superhero as well as a VTAEYC Magnificent Mentor. 

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