MORRISTOWN — At Let’s Grow Kids annual “Leading Change for Children Conferences” earlier this month, long-time advocates for early childhood education Representative Wood and Senator Westman, received the 2019 Child Care Champion Award.
The award recognizes the two legislators for their instrumental roles in shepherding child care initiatives in the House and Senate during the 2019 legislative session.
Over the course of the 2019 legislative session, Representative Wood and Senator Westman collaborated with colleagues to ensure that Vermont’s Legislature and Administration passed a state budget with significantly increased investments in child care.
In addition to approving $7.4 million in new investments in child care, the Legislature allocated $1.4 million from the state’s 2019 budget.
These investments include additional funding for the Child Care Financial Assistance Program, which helps low-and moderate-income families afford child care, and funding support for the early education workforce.
“This year we took an important first step to secure Vermont’s social and economic future by investing in children when it matters most,” said Rep. Wood. “But we’re not done yet.”
Rep. Wood introduced a comprehensive child care bill with 70 co-sponsors, and then worked tirelessly with her fellow legislators on the Human Services Committee to pass a bill that contained key components of that vision.
She then worked with House members and leadership to bring the bill to the floor and secured a unanimous, 133-0 vote in support.
“Vermonters are lucky to have leaders like Representative Wood and Senator Westman working tirelessly to ensure every Vermont child gets a strong start,” said Let’s Grow Kids CEO Aly Richards.
When the child care bill reached the Senate, Senator Westman worked with his colleagues on the Senate Health and Welfare and Appropriations Committees to make sure that it received thorough review.
He ensured that the conversation in the Senate focused on the needs of lower-income Vermonters who are often paying up to 30 percent of their income on child care, even with financial assistance.
He also focused attention on the needs of early childhood educators and the workforce shortage in the field contributing to the state’s severe shortage of child care.
“Investing in high-quality, affordable child care is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” said Sen. Westman. “We have to take an incremental approach to get this done.”