Throughout the course of my life I have had countless opportunities to learn the same lesson: When you engage with children and invest in them at a young age, their opportunity for success skyrockets.
In January, I joined fellow business leaders, state legislators, early educators and community members at a Statehouse press conference announcing new legislation proposing significant investments in high-quality, affordable child care. It was an opportunity to reflect on my experience as a child growing up in Northfield, Vermont; a parent raising my children and volunteering in our community; and a business leader responsible for growing a statewide company with over 800 employees. I am heartened to see H.531, the child care bill, moving forward in the legislature: a strong signal that we can shape a prosperous future for Vermont by investing in high-quality child care today.
I serve as Vermont President of People's United Bank and am immediate past chair of the Vermont Business Roundtable. More and more I see qualified employees leave the workforce - not because they want to, but simply because they cannot find or afford child care and I can say with certainty that my business colleagues agree that child care is a crucial issue to our employees. Child care provides a necessary support that allows our employees to be active, innovative and productive when they arrive at work. Vermont's child care crisis means that our employees don't have access to this fundamental support. As a result, we're seeing increased absenteeism and parents are understandably distracted at work which can stress the entire team, and our businesses suffer from decreased earnings and stymied growth. The absence of high-quality child care creates a deficit that hurts families, businesses and our economy.
When we invest in individual children, they gain the opportunity to become their best self. When we invest in an entire system of high-quality child care the state receives the economic benefits of their combined individual successes: The cost of special education and early intervention decreases; we lower rates of incarceration; parents can return to the workforce; and families gain economic security to buy homes, pay taxes and invest in their communities. We don't have to wait for our children to grow, however, to see a return on investment in child care. It has an immediate impact on their parents - our current workforce. We face an aging demographic and we are a small state, but we can lead on child care. By positioning ourselves as a state where each child receives the best early care and education, we will lift the economic burden from Vermont families today and we will attract young families for years to come. It is the smartest economic incentive we can offer to attract the best talent and gain a productive, innovative workforce.
I am heartened by the 2019 child care bill, H.531, and its approach to support families and the early educator workforce. I urge the Legislature to pass this legislation and find adequate funding to create a high-quality, affordable child care system that meets the needs of Vermont's children, families and economy.
I am honored to join so many of my fellow Vermont business leaders who are standing up to support this investment in high-quality child care. When our employees' child care needs are met, we strengthen our own businesses today and we create a legacy of change for Vermont and for each of our children.
Michael Seaver is president of People's United Bank, Vermont. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.