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Aug 24, 2019

Vermont celebrates new investments in child care; is it enough?

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The state is celebrating $7 million of help for Vermonters who pay for child care. So how do those dollars translate into real help for families? Our Cat Viglienzoni spoke with a mom whose life was forever changed when she lost care for her kids.

I lost my job, my life savings and my apartment after I lost access to child care," Nina Lemieux said.

When her child care abruptly closed in January 2017, Lemieux had to quit her job to take care of her three kids.

"I burned through my life savings and the retirement I had earned within just a few months," she said.

She now has child care but is still struggling to get back to where she was in her career. Her story was highlighted Thursday at a press conference at the Burlington YMCA, touting the state's investments in child care to help families like hers.

"This is essential," said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

The governor and lawmakers set aside about $7 million in this year's budget for early education investments.

"It's having a tangible impact," Scott said.

We got new numbers from the Vermont Department for Children and Families on where they're making investments with new and existing money.

-DCF says about $6 million went to financial assistance for 2,000 families.

-A million went to programs that help boost infant and toddler care, the two areas of greatest need in Vermont's child care system.

-Another $1.5 million went to grants to build care capacity in areas of the state that had the greatest need.

-A total of $600,000 went to supporting people who work in the child care industry and building a new child care workforce.

-And another $1 million went to technology upgrades in the Building Bright Futures system.

But even the extra millions spent this year aren't fixing the problems of affordability for families or livable wages for workers in the child care industry.

"None of it is affordable," said Aly Richards, the CEO of Let's Grow Kids.

Richards says simply it's going to take more money. Investments like this from the state help but some families are still spending about 40 percent of their household income on child care.

And child care programs told us they're barely making ends meet.

"We have to double down and fix this issue," Richards said.
"I'm living on the edge," Lemieux said.

Lemieux says she's still recovering from the setback but thanks to new aid, she's also starting to save money again.

"The reality is if you can't afford child care, you can't afford to live and work in Vermont," she said.

No word yet on what lawmakers will allocate for early ed in next year's budget or if they will increase the spending there.

I asked Lemieux why her child care provider closed abruptly. She said it was because of new regulations from the state on child care providers which made moving the location of her business unaffordable. The governor said some of the regulations were necessary to meet safety requirements.

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