Low wages, lack of benefits create shortage of Vermont childcare providers

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U.S. Rep Peter Welch says the only path forward for Vermonters is one that has universal, accessible, and affordable childcare.

“If there’s a silver lining to what our state and what our country have been through,” Welch said, “it’s that in these extraordinarily ambitious programs passed by Congress, childcare, what you’ve been advocating for, what you put your heart and soul into and have been making progress toward, has been front and center.”

Welch says the American Rescue Plan will bring $49 million to Vermont for child care. It would also expand the child tax credit. Families with children 6 and under will get monthly checks of $300. Those with older children will get $250 each month.

While this is a boost for childcare providers, they say staffing shortages are also a persistent problem.

“We have had to close classrooms,” said Vicky Senni, with Turtle Island Children’s Center. “Not due to COVID, but due to staffing shortages.”

Chloe Leary of Winston Prouty Center in Brattleboro said she can’t find teachers to staff her classroom.

“And how do you find teachers if you cant pay them?” she said.

According to Let’s Grow Kids, there are 800 vacancies across the state’s 10 designated agencies, up 37% from last year. Teachers also report ‘unlivable’ wages and lack of healthcare benefits.

Janet McLaughlin, of Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children, said teachers would like to see payments to to individual providers to compensate workers directly and offset struggles of instability in the workforce.

“These resources really should go to increasing compensation, salaries, sign on bonuses,” she said. “I think benefits are also a huge part of this equation.”

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