In Bennington, Leahy announces resource support for Southwestern Vermont Health Care Child Care Facility

BENNINGTON, Vt. — U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) visited Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) Wednesday to announce his support of the hospital’s proposed expansion of their child care center.  Leahy, the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, included a request for $750,000 to support child care expansion in Bennington in his 2021 Congressionally Directed Spending requests.

Leahy said:  “Families need access to affordable child care in order to work, to participate in their communities and to thrive.  Here in Bennington County, that critical resource is scarce, and Southwestern Vermont Health Care and Let’s Grow Kids are taking a leadership role in addressing the community’s needs.  I am proud to support the hospital’s efforts to expand child care in Bennington County.”

With its proposed project, SVHC is seeking to address the child care shortage which impacts their employees, its patients, and its community.  The hospital currently operates a 59-slot facility, which they aim to significantly expand with the requested funding.  The funding is contingent on final passage of the Fiscal Year 2022 federal Appropriations bills.  As Appropriations Chairman Leahy this year led in restoring the practice of funding specific community projects through the annual Appropriations bills that fund the federal government.

Southwestern Vermont Health Care’s president and CEO Tom Dee said: “Our region is grateful for Senator Leahy’s support. Bennington County needs additional childcare facilities for its employees as well as for business recruitment. Our child care center, The Learning Tree, offers an incredible and valuable program, but is limited in its capacity and the current space prevents expansion.”

Bennington County suffers from a lack of child care availability.  According to Let’s Grow Kids, Bennington needs 555 additional child care spaces and 132 additional early educators to meet the needs of its families.  The need is particularly acute for infants, 61 percent of whom do not have access to a regulated child care facility.  The lack of child care is a significant barrier for local businesses as they seek to hire and retain workers.

Let’s Grow Kids CEO Aly Richards said: “Vermont is fortunate to have representatives in Congress who understand that child care is essential to children, families, our recovery and economy, and are fighting for significant investment. Let’s Grow Kids is excited to partner with Southwestern Vermont Health Care and our federal delegation to give more children in Bennington County access to high-quality child care. But as we all know, Vermont’s child care crisis is not contained to any one county. That’s why over 30,000 Vermonters from all walks of life have joined the Vermont Child Care Campaign to advocate for the public investment that will ensure every Vermont child has equitable access to the early learning opportunities that will enable them to fulfill their fullest potential, to become thoughtful, engaged community members, and help build a better future for Vermont.”

Image courtesy of U.S. Army National Guard/Michelle Gonzalez

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