The need for child care is a reality for the majority of families with young children in Vermont. But for most families, child care is too expensive. In fact, some middle-income Vermont families are spending more than 40% of their income on child care.

The affordability challenge forces parents to make tough choices, pitting their natural desire to provide their children the best start in life against so many other needs—including their ability to keep a good job.


The Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) helps Vermont families afford child care. For most families, eligibility for assistance is determined by household income. The less a family earns, the more assistance they are eligible to receive. Families earning 300% of the 2017 Federal Poverty Level ($73,800 for a family of 4) or less are eligible.

The problem is that CCFAP has been underfunded for years and, as a result, is not really meeting the need of families:
  1. Not enough families are eligible to receive assistance.
  2. It doesn’t provide enough assistance to eligible families, some of whom are paying more than 40% of their income to child care—even with assistance.
  3. The rates it pays to child care providers on behalf of eligible families are based on what providers were charging in 2008 and 2009—not their current costs.
Additionally, the current sliding scale used to determine how much tuition assistance a family receives from CCFAP has “cliffs.” This means that at certain points in the scale, if a family’s income increases and they move into a new tuition assistance level at which they receive less assistance, the additional income may be less than the increased amount the family now has to pay for child care, leaving them worse off financially.
Underfunding Forces Tough Choices for Families
Because tuition assistance rates are so out of step with the current cost of programs, families receiving CCFAP tuition assistance are often asked to cover the difference between the tuition assistance rate and the full cost of the child care program. Families who can’t afford to pay this additional amount are limited in which (if any) programs they can choose. This gap means that not all families are able to access high-quality, affordable child care, which reduces the effectiveness of CCFAP.
Underfunding Forces Tough Choices for Child Care Providers
The gap between CCFAP tuition assistance rates and current market rates for child care programs also hurts providers. Providers are forced to choose between asking families who already face financial challenges to cover the difference between the CCFAP tuition assistance rate and the rate the provider charges other families for the program, or not asking families to cover the difference and taking a financial hit to their program’s budget.
The Blue RIbbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care has recommended increasing funding of CCFAP by $43.5 million to achieve the following short-term goals:
  • Align tuition assistance rates paid to providers with rates charged by providers in 2015 (the most current rate information for providers from across the state at this time).
  • Increase eligibility for CCFAP from 300% of FPL to 350% of FPL to increase access to assistance.
  • Extend 100% tuition assistance to all eligible families at or below 200% of the FPL and then develop a new tuition assistance sliding scale that removes significant cliffs in the scale.
Let’s Grow Kids is part of a group through the Vermont Early Childhood Advovacy Alliance advocating for an increase of $9.2 million into CCFAP. We need your help asking legislators to find a way to significantly increase funding for CCFAP. Use our online Candidate Dashboard to find your legislators and candidates and email them to say you believe this is a smart investment for Vermont.

Vermonters Speak to this Issue

Vermont parents who are affected by the high costs of quality child care and the chronic underfunding of CCFAP spoke to us via Small Talk.

Marianna, a parent from Marshfield, talks about her family's struggles to make ends meet.

Selver, a parent from Shelburne, discusses the difficulties of being a single parent of two kids in child care.

Carly, Family Support at a Family Center from Wilder, talks about the struggles of families in poverty.

Anne, a parent from Wolcott, talks about the child care financial dilemma that faces many families and providers in Vermont.

Megan, a parent from East Thetford, describes how lucky her family is to get help paying for child care.

Katie, a parent from Orleans, talks about the financial struggles of child care and other bills.