Vermont’s children, working families and employers depend on high-quality child care. But providing child care is an expensive business—too expensive for most parents to foot the entire bill. Consequently, most providers can’t charge what they need to earn a livable wage and, as a result, struggle to stay in business.
Unaffordable for Families
Vermont families are struggling to pay for child care. Middle-income families with two parents and two young children are spending 28–40% of their income on child care—that’s more than the average family spends on food, housing or transportation.
In fact, the average cost of child care for a family in Vermont is over $20,000 a year—more than the cost of full-time, in-state tuition at a Vermont State College.
The affordability challenge forces parents to make tough choices: Should they keep the jobs they need to make ends meet when nearly all of their paycheck goes to child care? Should they take on extra work to pay for child care and miss out on time with their family? Or should they quit their jobs to avoid paying for child care and struggle to pay other bills due to the loss of income?
Unaffordable for Providers
Child care is a hard profession to sustain. That's because the average annual income for a child care worker in Vermont is only $24,850—often without benefits. This is $6,000 LESS than what Vermont’s Joint Fiscal Office says is a livable annual income.
The result is that providers struggle to stay in the field. In fact, child care is one of the top 10 occupations in the state with the highest number of openings, on average, per year. The Vermont Department of Labor has projected that between 2012 and 2022, almost 70% of child care worker positions that become available in Vermont will be due to turnover.
With an already alarming shortage of child care across the state, we cannot afford to lose more quality programs.
Vermont’s Child Care Tuition Assistance Program – Not Meeting the Need
Vermont’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) is an important resource for Vermont families. It helps them afford child care while parents work or attend school. But, because CCFAP has been underfunded for many years, it’s not meeting the need.
CCFAP’s tuition assistance rates have barely increased over the past five years. Currently, the amount the program reimburses providers when parents qualify for assistance is based on what it used to cost to offer child care in 2008.
To bring assistance rates in line with 2015 market rates, CCFAP would need an investment of approximately $9 million.
Families and providers get caught in the gap between what the state pays child care programs in tuition assistance and what it really costs to offer quality child care. Sometimes families have to cover the gap and sometimes providers opt to take the financial hit.
Adding to the Financial Burden: The Increased Cost of New Regulations
In recent months, Let's Grow Kids has been hearing concerns from child care providers and parents about the state's updated regulations for regulated child care programs, some of which went into effect September 1. Providers are reporting that the updated regulations pose additional cost burdens to already financially-strapped programs, causing some programs to close their doors.
While keeping child care standards up-to-date is a necessary step in establishing quality early childhood programming, we recognize that providers need financial support in order to increase program standards.