“Between 2007-2012, we've seen this increase in child poverty. Up to 15.5% of children in Vermont live in poverty right now. So that's a 25% increase,” said Sarah Teel, Research Associate at Voices for Vermont’s Children.
To put it into perspective, that means 19,000 kids in Vermont are living below the poverty level. Families of 4 bringing in less than $23,000 are considered to be living in poverty.
"Children need to be shielded from the effects of a fluctuating economy,” said Teel.
Teel and her colleagues released a 16-page childhood poverty report. It reveals nearly half of Vermont's children have health and dental coverage through Vermont's publicly-financed health care program called Dr. Dynasaur. But many dental offices are unable to provide care to all those patients.
"The coverage exists but children have a hard time accessing the care anyway. This is a really big gap right now that we're trying to address with a piece of legislation,” said Teel.
"They're limited as to how many kids they can see on that program versus their regular patients,” said Vermont Rep. Tess Taylor of Barre City.
State Representative Tess Taylor is Chair of the Vermont Child Poverty Council. She testified to the House Human Services Committee Thursday to push new legislation that would create a new type of dental license called a dental practioner. The practitioner could work at clinics that otherwise wouldn't be able to accept more patients.
“This would hopefully help with that so kids can get in and get seen,” said Rep. Tessa.
“Clearly there's a need and it's not a family or an individual problem but it's just, statewide,” said Teel.
Representative Taylor also testified on behalf of a bill that would make public preschool available across the state. This would not only kick off a child's education, but help relieve parents of daycare costs.