Of all the competing funding priorities debated this legislative session in Montpelier, increased investments in child care rose to the top for good reason. The $7.4 million child care package included in the budget is one of the biggest investments the Capitol made this year. It is also one that could yield incredible economic and social returns for Vermont.
As a member of the Vermont Business Roundtable (VBR) and the chair of our Early Care and Learning Task force, I was involved with a report we commissioned in 2017 to better understand the economic impact of investing public funding in high-quality early care and learning programs in Vermont. It found that every additional dollar Vermont invests to expand high-quality early care and learning programs would yield a return of $3.08. This would include both immediate economic benefits—such as increased parent participation in the workforce—and long-term savings for Vermont in child welfare, special education, health care, crime and substance abuse costs.
This year’s $7.4 million child care package stands to put more back into the budgets of Vermont’s families and early educators, and, ultimately, our economy. These investments will have a tangible, immediate impact on making child care more affordable for Vermont families, allowing them to stay in the workforce and contribute to the long-term economic well-being of their families and our state. For example, it’s estimated that a single parent with two children who earns $15/hour will have an extra $416 a month thanks to increased levels of child care financial assistance.
Business leaders will tell you that strengthening Vermont’s economy depends upon reversing current demographic trends of an aging population and our rapidly shrinking workforce. One significant impediment for Vermont businesses is that parents can’t find or afford quality child care. Access to high-quality child care supports our workforce today by allowing us to recruit and retain the best talent while ensuring that our children – tomorrow’s neighbors, entrepreneurs, and employees— have the building blocks to thrive in school, work, and life.
As a father, I have seen the impact that strong, nurturing early care had on my children as they grew and explored Vermont. As a director of The Trapp Family Lodge Resort, a Vermont business with decades of history, I am constantly looking to the past to preserve our legacy and to the future to ensure our growth. A robust, skilled, and personable workforce is a crucial part of that future.
I applaud the efforts of our legislature and our governor this year and am proud to join with many business leaders across the state who believe that investing in our early care and learning system is one of the smartest economic development strategies we can make.
This year’s investments will not solve the current child care crisis, but it is an incredibly important step to support our working families. As business leaders, we are problem solvers and innovators, and we look forward to a continued partnership with our policy makers to ensure families receive what they need to be happy and productive, in life and work.
Walter Frame is Director and Executive Vice President of Trapp Family Lodge.