DEDICATED TO THOUGHTFUL, INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY-BUILDING
While my interest in issues is broad, my focus is on those that impact the economic concerns we have not only locally but also statewide, particularly in the areas of accessible and affordable childcare, student loan debt, and providing a living wage for all Vermont workers.
ACCESSIBLE AND AFFORDABLE CHILDCARE
Just a few days ago there was yet another post on Front Porch Forum from a family seeking childcare for their young son, expressing frustration in their search for quality, affordable care. As a grandmother who has been providing part-time childcare for my grandchildren, and knowing other grandparents who are or have provided part or full-time care, I know first-hand how this issue impacts young families – especially those who do not have family nearby.
According to Let’s Grow Kids, a public awareness and engagement campaign about the challenge of childcare in Vermont, more than 70% of children under six statewide have all parents in the workforce. Access to regulated or high-quality programs in Washington County meets or exceeds this number for both infants and toddlers. Families with young children continually cite the availability of quality, affordable childcare as a major factor when considering where to live and work. And as we continue to address the issue of our aging population and how to retain and attract younger workers, the childcare piece cannot be ignored.
Upcoming legislation next session will need committed advocacy and broad support in Montpelier. As your representative, I will make this critical issue my priority.
STUDENT LOAN DEBT
The average student loan debt in Vermont exceeds most other states: in 2013, it was the 6th highest in the country. A high debt to earnings ratio makes it difficult for student loan borrowers to engage in the economy in ways that benefit not only their own circumstances but the financial health of their communities. Purchasing a home, starting a family, or even taking a particular job can be dictated by one’s debt burden.
As we consider how to retain and attract younger workers in Vermont, we will need to think broadly and creatively to lighten the consequences of high student loan debt.
LIVING WAGES FOR WORKERS
In a rural state like ours, stable jobs matter. Raising the minimum wage is one way to increase stability for both employees and employers, alleviating job-hopping for minor wage increases and allowing workers to save for child care costs, unexpected car repairs, and other basic expenses that impact their ability to meet work commitments.
In 2017, both the House and the Senate passed legislation to increase the minimum wage, and although it ultimately did not pass through the executive branch, it created a solid foundation on which to build. It is imperative that state legislators work together with our business and worker communities to create a plan that provides a livable wage while not unduly burdening employers.