Vermont governor says his paid family leave and child care plans offer a middle ground to the legislature's proposals
Vermont Governor Phil Scott focused his weekly briefing today on child care and family leave proposals that the legislature is considering. The Republican says the Democratically controlled Statehouse should move closer to the proposals he has put forward.
Governor Scott began his briefing with a reminder that he has long opposed raising taxes and fees. This led to him voicing concerns that the Legislature’s versions of paid family leave and child care bills rely on taxing Vermonters at a time when the state has historic surpluses.
“We’ve both put forward plans on child care and paid leave. In fact, my plans land somewhere between where the House and Senate differ and could be part of the compromise they seek," Scott said. "With paid family leave my plan is voluntary and we’ve already set up the mechanism. State employees will be eligible on July 1. This is a much faster turnaround than the House proposal, which will take years to set up. For child care the $56 million I had in my budget would cover 4,000 more kids without raising taxes on working Vermonters.”
Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Kevin Gaffney added that the state will implement its paid family leave plan this summer for state employees, phase one of a larger plan.
“Phase 2 will take effect July 1, 2024 and be available to employers of group sizes of two or more," Gaffney said. "Post implementation of Phase 1 we will start a promotion and education effort to get the word out to employers so that when July of ’24 comes around there’s full awareness, that they start talking to their insurance brokers about options and choice. This program gives employers that choice. The Phase 1 plan is a foundation which employers can choose to build off of.”
In June a program that pays for hotel rooms for residents without housing will end. Advocates claim more than 2,000 Vermonters will become homeless as a result and are calling on the governor and legislators to continue it with state funding. Governor Scott says the General Assistance Motel Program was a federally funded pandemic program that is finished.
“The pandemic has ended," Scott said. "This federal money is not coming in anymore. We could take money that we were going to put into permanent housing and so forth and extend this program for another two and a half months but then we’re going to end up in the same place. It’s time. We have to end it. We can’t keep going with a $20 million a month program.”
Agency of Human Services Secretary Jenney Samuelson said it is time to transition the individuals to permanent housing or other options.
“We have spent since October, and even before that, going into the hotels working with the individuals to create plans to be able to move forward," Samuelson said. "We also know this program doesn’t have the wraparound services that assist people in connecting them to permanent housing, connecting them to jobs, connecting them to services. And so we could extend the inevitable robbing from the future where we were building affordable housing units or we could look at how we’re going to address this going forward.”