by Guy Page
Union leaders are pushing the Legislature and the Scott administration to add additional child care benefits for state employees, according to the August 20 Vermont State Employees’ Association newsletter.
Since January 1 this year, many state employees have been eligible for $300/week in work-related child care expenses for children 13 and younger.
“Reimbursement will be available for State employees who spent at least $300 for regular, on-going, work related child care for children aged 13 or younger (as of December 31, 2020),” according to the Child Care Cost Reimbursement page on the Human Resources Dept. page of Vermont.gov.
Some salary, provider, and classification restrictions apply. The funds are made available through labor/management agreements with the State of Vermont.
The August 20 newsletter suggests the VSEA wants more for its members.
Under a headline reading “Idea Of States Providing Child Care As Benefit Gaining Traction,” the Week In Action (WIA) newsletter included a national news story extolling the benefits of childcare as an employee benefit. It included this editorial note: “WIA is including this story because having the State provide child care is an idea VSEA members have floated at the State House and on the fifth floor.”
The news story on governing.com makes the argument for child care benefits:
- Caring for children at home is the #1 reason Americans stay home and don’t work. 7.5 million Americans stay home for this reason, census data show.
- With the tight private sector job market attracting high-quality government employees, a child care benefit would help government retain key employees.
- The “reservation wage” – the amount of money needed to overcome reservations about returning to the office – is about $71,000 in the New York area. Governments unable to simply boost pay accordingly can compensate in strategically-added benefits, such as child care.
The news story notes – with considerable understatement – that creating a new child care benefit is “a budgetary challenge that requires top-down focus and commitment.” Even with increased federal child tax credits, state and local governments will need to find the money somewhere.
A 2020 report by the Vermont Department of Families shows that in 2019, the average weekly cost for school-age children was $203/week, $262 for toddlers, and $268 for infants. The most expensive scenario – parents placing infants in full-time childcare 52 weeks a year – would cost an average $13,936.
Categories: State Government