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 more than 30% of their income on child care.
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 paychecks go to child care? Should they take on extra work to pay for child care and miss out on time with their families? 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 median annual income for a child care worker in Vermont is only $26,440—often without benefits. This is 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.
The Vermont Legislature’s 2018 budget included sustained funding for CCFAP with $300,000 for the Vermont Child Development Division (CDD) to adjust income eligibility for CCFAP from 2017 federal poverty guidelines to 2018 federal poverty guidelines. This meant more families were eligible for the program and some families are eligible to receive higher financial assistance rates.
Unfortunately, Vermont families and providers still 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.
To ensure that high-quality child care is affordable for all Vermont families and child care providers, we need further investment in CCFAP.