Gov. Announces Child Care Initiative For School-Aged Children
Gov. Phil Scott has issued an executive order aimed at increasing Vermont's child care capacity as public schools plan to provide some or all education remotely.
Education Secretary Dan French said during the governor's biweekly press briefing Tuesday that of Vermont's 60 or so school districts, 49 have shared their plans for the upcoming school year with state officials, and of those, 46 will have a hybrid of remote and in-person learning, while the other three will be completely remote.
Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said a Department for Children and Families analysis of Agency of Education data showed that if a quarter of Vermont's kindergarten through sixth-grade students need care, that's an additional 10,300 child care slots.
"We know we need more child care capacity, and we need it quickly," Scott said.
Pending legislative approval, the state will use $12 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to expand child care options. About $7 million would be used to set up 73 summer camp-like regional "child care hubs" in work places, school buildings and other available spaces for school-aged children.
"We know we need more child care capacity, and we need it quickly." — Gov. Phil Scott
The new "child care hubs" would be located throughout the state and could serve up to 7,000 kids, though their exact locations are still to be determined, according to Smith.
"Working with locals, working with our community providers, we will try to make sure the distribution ... meets the needs of that particular county," Smith said.
The money set aside for the program would cover start-up costs for the programs and not tuition for children. But Smith said there are programs, like the Child Care Financial Assistance Program — known as CCFAP — that families can apply for.
Smith said the state hopes to get the hubs up and running as quickly as possible, but he declined to give an exact date.
In addition, the governor's order lifts restrictions on home-based care providers, allowing them to be reimbursed for more than four hours of child care. That change could open up an additional 3,000 child care slots, Smith said.
The governor also announced Tuesday that his administration's budget proposal for the remainder of the fiscal year, which media members heard about during a separate press conference earlier in the day, does not include new taxes and fees.
"We're setting priorities, trying to do things better and smarter while making difficult decisions," Scott said. "Because I don't believe this is a time to be asking for more from Vermonters."
He noted that the budget proposal does not tap into rainy day or reserve funds, nor does it cut "essential programs for Vermonters."
"There will be more difficult budget decisions ahead," Scott said. He added that even if a COVID-19 vaccine is available in the next year, the pandemic's full economic impact is still unknown.
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