Child care, disabled services and after-school activities top budget hearing

MONTPELIER — Advocates for child care, after-school activities and the disabled called for greater funding for their causes during a hearing Thursday night at the State House.

Perhaps it was due to the regional public forums happening next week, but Thursday’s hearing before the House Appropriations Committee drew a modest turnout. But, those people who did show up offered passionate testimony on behalf of their issues.

Currently, the committee is reviewing the proposed budget from the Shumlin Administration for FY 2017, which includes a 3.1-percent increase compared with the current fiscal year, taking into account mid-year adjustments.

According to Gov. Peter Shumlin, the proposed budget increase matches projected revenues.

Max Barrows, of Worcestor, calls for a living wage for staff who support disabled adults during a hearing Thursday on the FY 2017 budget.

Josh O'Gorman / VPB

Max Barrows, of Worcestor, calls for a living wage for staff who support disabled adults during a hearing Thursday on the FY 2017 budget.

Thursday’s hearing included testimony from Max Barrows, of Worcester, who described himself as autistic and who does outreach for Green Mountain Self-Advocates, which encourages people with developmental disabilities to educate their peers and live an independent lifestyle.

Barrows said he was happy there is money in the budget to assist Vermonters with developmental disabilities, but said more is needed.

Barrows noted disabled students graduating high school needing assistance to join the work force, as well as Vermonters with disabilities needing help as they grow older.

“People are living by themselves or independently, and as they age they need more support in life,” Barrows said.

Barrows also argued in favor of a cost-of-living adjustment for people who work with developmentally disabled adults.

“Support workers don’t make a livable wage,” Barrows said. “A livable wage for support workers would go a long way and there would be much less turnover.”

Virginia Burley, of East Montpelier, calls for state funding for after-school activities during a hearing Thursday night on the proposed FY 2017 budget.

Josh O'Gorman / VPB

Virginia Burley, of East Montpelier, calls for state funding for after-school activities during a hearing Thursday night on the proposed FY 2017 budget.

Virginia Burley, of East Montpelier, advocated for more money – really, any money – for the state fund that supports after-school activities. According to Burley, currently, there is no money in that fund.

“If there is no money in the budget for after-school education, Vermont will be the only state that would be able to say that,” Burley said. “Many families want access to these programs but lack the opportunity, either because their towns do not have them or because they are too expensive.”

Kathleen Burroughs, director of Kid Country Childcare Center in Montpelier, spoke on behalf of increasing money for child care subsidies for low-income families.

Burroughs says she knows parents who work a 40-hour week who are still not earning enough money to pay for quality child care.

Kathleen Burroughs, argus on behalf of an increase in child care subsidies during a hearing Thursday on the proposed FY 2017 budget.

Josh O'Gorman / VPB

Kathleen Burroughs, argus on behalf of an increase in child care subsidies during a hearing Thursday on the proposed FY 2017 budget.

“Without this increase, the child care financial assistance grant will not be able to keep up with the needs of the community and may result in wait lists,” Burroughs said.

Members of the House Appropriations Committee will also hold hearings from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday at locations in Bellows Falls, Rutland, St. Albans, St. Johnsbury and Williston.

The locations are as follows:

Bellows Falls: Windham Antiques Center, 5 The Square

Rutland: Longfellow Administration Building, 6 Church St.

St. Albans: town library, 169 South Main St.

St. Johnsbury: St. Johnsbury School, 257 Western Ave.

Williston: Vermont Technical College, Building 400, 201 Lawrence Place.

All locations are handicapped accessible. For more information, call 828-5767.

josh.ogorman@timesargus.com

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