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Bill Allowing Child Care Union Passes State Senate

Supporters hope it will lead to better wages for providers while opponents are nervous there isn't enough money.

For 13 years Kay Curtis has run Happy Hands, a childcare center in Brattleboro, out of her home.

“I love being a contribution to the children and their families. It’s almost like I’m raising families,” Curtis said.

Friday Curtis and a group of childcare providers watched as senate bill 316 passed 20 to 7. The bill allows them to organize a union and negotiate subsidies with the state of Vermont.

Currently the state pays subsidies to providers to make it more affordable for families to receive child care services.

“Most of them on average earn under $20,000 a year,” State Senator Dick McCormack (D-Windsor) said.

McCormack sponsored the legislation to give the daycare workers a chance at a better wage.

“It needs more money than it's been getting,” McCormack said.

Some lawmakers are worried it's going to cost the state too much money. A study by the Vermont Joint Fiscal office predicts the state could pay an additional $800,000 to $2.5 million in subsidies to providers if they unionize. That amount could become even larger.

Right now providers are reimbursed by the state at a rate set in 2008. If that rate is adjusted to 2012 standards it could cost the state an additional $9.6 million a year.

McCormack says that could happen whether providers unionize or not.

“There are upward pressures in any case,” McCormack said.

Curtis says better subsidies will lead to better child care service.

“What about my work could be done more efficiently what about my work could be better for families,” Curtis said.

While supporters hope the bill will lead to better service opponents fear it could spread the money too thin, with less money for the families.

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