Category Archives: Legislative News

Budget Update

Voices for Vermont’s Children stands with the many organizations serving and giving voice to Vermonters who are being left behind by an uneven economic recovery in asking the legislature to increase investments in children and families.

Almost 16% of Vermont children (more than 18,000) are living below the poverty line, a higher rate than what was seen during the recession. Almost half of these are living in what’s defined as “extreme poverty:” less than 50% of the FPL. We are talking about 9,000 children struggling for survival in a state that prides itself on being a leader in child well being and health. Families need economic security in order to create safe, healthy environments for children.

The growing body of research around social determinants of health carries important implications for state budgets. Research on health care spending and health outcomes around the globe found that more robust investments in social services correlated to better health outcomes. Building on this research, Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation in Massachusetts published a study showing strong evidence that investments in housing, nutrition, and case management had significant positive impacts on health outcomes. With that background, consider that Vermont has one of the highest rates of homelessness in New England, second only to Massachusetts. Vermont’s rate of homelessness is 20 percent higher than the national average, and contrary to national trends, Vermont saw a 25% percent increase in overall reported homelessness and a 48% percent increase in family homelessness between 2012 and 2013. (For more information on housing and homelessness in Vermont, see our 2015 report)

Voices for Vermont’s Children urges legislators to look at every budget request through the lens of how it will improve child and family economic security and health and prioritize those that have been shown to have positive impacts.

  • Start by increasing Reach-Up grants to cover more of the family needs budget by adjusting the “ratable reduction” to at least 55% of basic needs and gradually increase over time.
  • Restore the FY 16 budget reduction of $125 a month in Reach Up benefits for families who have a member receiving disability benefits.
  • Increase investments in the Child Care Financial Assistance Program.While we recognize that a comprehensive financing solution is being explored by the Blue Ribbon Commission for Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care, we support continued incremental increases to increase the affordability of childcare for Vermonters.
  • Appropriate funds for the Expanded Learning Opportunities special fund to increase access to quality after school and summer learning programs, particularly for low income children and families.
  • Fully fund the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and increase support for supportive housing programs.
  • Finally, Voices supports the proposed increase in staffing for the child protection system, and urges the legislature to consider the budgetary needs of community support providers who serve as critically important partners in the child protection system.

If the goal is for children to be raised in safe, stable families, it’s incumbent on us as a state to ensure that conditions exist to support that vision.  Read Michelle Fay’s testimony to the House Appropriations Committee here.

Status of the Bill: House Appropriations continues to take testimony from administration officials on department budgets, and completed a series of public hearings around the state. Advocate hearings also took place prior to the Town Meeting break. Policy committees have also submitted memos with their recommendations on the parts of the budget pertaining to their jurisdiction. The Human Services committee’s priorities overlapped Voices’ in three places:

  1. Support for the Governor’s recommended investments in the DCF Family Services division (ranked most important);
  2. Support for increasing Child Care Financial Assistance Program (child care subsidy) to come closer to market rates (ranked important); and
  3. Restoring the $125 cut to Reach Up for recipients on disability (ranked lower priority).

 

When the legislature reconvenes the committee will aggregate all of this input into a budget bill that will come to the floor in late March.

Increasing access to oral health care in Vermont

Voices has long been concerned with health disparities that are masked by Vermont’s relatively good record on providing health care. One of the most significant disparities exists in access to oral health. Because oral health is integral to overall health, the lack of access to dental care in Vermont undermines the health and well beingContinue Reading

2015 Legislative Wrap-Up

It was another busy Legislative session.  In addition to the updates on the Child Protection Bill, Paid Sick Days Legislation, and Oral Health Care Legislation, we wanted each of you to know about changes in our staffing.  Our Associate Director, Sheila Reed will be retiring today, and our Policy Associate, Beth Nolan will be moving toContinue Reading

Voices 2013 Legislative Wrap-Up

For Voices 2013 Wrap-Up of the 2013 Legislative Session link here:Voices 2013 Leg 

Legislative Update

New legislative update from Voices for Vermont’s Children. Click here.

Legislative Wrap up for the 2012 Session

Here’s what happened in the 2012 Legislative Session.   For more in depth details on any of these items please see our 2012 Legislative Wrap Up Immunizations S199 The bill S.199, introduced by Senator Mullin, originally removed the philosophical exemption to the requirement that all children entering public school or a registered childcare center receiveContinue Reading

Legislative Update 2012 – #1

In this Issue Agency of Human Services Addresses Problems with Child Welfare System. Budget Adjustment bill passes House and heads for the Senate Vermont legislature passes school “green” cleaning bill Child Care Centers Request Emergency Help From the Legislature Public Hearing on FY2013 State Budget This update is downloadable Legislative Update 2012 – #1

Vermont legislature passes school “green” cleaning bill.

On Thursday,January 12th, the Senate gave final approval to S.92, a bill that requires manufacturers and distributors of cleaning products to only sell environmentally preferable cleaning products to schools.  The bill will now make its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Here’s the Press Release from VPIRG.  So that marks one down, sevenContinue Reading