Innovation & Technology


ELI First Steps Scholarship Program

The First Steps Scholarship Program is here to help Burlington families pay for high-quality child care. Your child does not have to attend a program in Burlington and you may be awarded scholarship funds that will go directly toward your child care tuition payment, along with help to secure additional state support. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Who Can Apply

To qualify for the scholarship, families and children must meet the following qualifications:

  • Be residents of Burlington.
  • The child must be at least eight weeks old at time of enrollment and younger than three years of age by September 1st (and not yet age eligible for Vermont’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten). If your child is older than two and a half years old but younger than three years of age, contact us to verify eligibility.
  • The child must be either currently enrolled at a First Steps approved partner program and eligible for the state’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program or the family should be willing to apply for CCFAP (which we will assist) if newly entering child care.
  • Applicants must be applying for full-time child care (26 hours or more).
  • Family household income must be at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). See below:


Household Members

2 Person  3 Person 4 Person 5 Person 6 Person 7 Person
Income at 80% AMI $68,650 $77,250 $85,800 $92,700 $99,550 $106,400

About the Burlington Early Learning Initiative

The City’s Early Learning Initiative has a two-pronged approach to help address the challenges of both availability and affordability of child care in Burlington. One prong of the initiative is the ELI Capacity Grant Program to help create new spaces for child care and stabilize existed spaces. The second prong of the initiative is the ELI First Steps Scholarship Program to provide scholarships to families with low incomes that help them afford and access high-quality care. Both programs focus in particular on care for children three years old and younger, where there is historically an acute need in Burlington. 


The ELI Capacity Grant program launched in 2017. As of February 2021, the program: 

  • Awarded $681,624 in grants to Burlington child care providers to directly support a 38 percent increase in high-quality infant and toddler child care spaces in Burlington; 
  • Provided funding to create 92 new high-quality spaces, 76 of which are for children zero to three and 15 of which are for children three to five; 
  • Provided funding to stabilize 166 existing child care spaces; and 
  • Supported the creation of two new, high-quality, and accessible centers in Burlington, one of which is located in the downtown off of St. Paul Street and one of which is located in the Old North End off of Riverside Avenue and in partnership with Head Start. 

Though about 350 children are born in Burlington each year, research by Let’s Grow Kids, a partner in this City project, indicates that there were only 201 high-quality child care spots serving Burlington and Burlington-area families in the City prior to the launch of the Early Learning Initiative. The ELI Capacity Grant program was designed to address that problem. 

Read more on the ELI Capacity Grant Program & Application. 



Mayor Miro Weinberger began the Early Learning Initiative to address the fact that low-income Burlington children are disproportionately likely to be unready for school, experience a widening achievement gap as they age in the public school system, and experience a range of negative outcomes later in life, including reduced educational achievements, higher rates of chronic health problems, higher rates of incarceration and drug misuse, and lower lifetime earnings. Ensuring an adequate supply of spots in early learning programs and improving access to those spots for our City’s most vulnerable children is vitally important in maintaining a vibrant community in which all children are given the opportunity to succeed.

The ELI First Steps Scholarship Program launched with a pilot in 2019 and an expanded program in 2020. As of February 2021, the program: 

  • Successfully funded 57 scholarships at 12 area child care providers, 53 percent of which supported single-parent households and 72 percent of which supported families that needed child care to support their return to the workforce; and 
  • Increased enrollment to the program by nearly 50 percent in its second year, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and pivoted to shift to rolling enrollment instead of an application deadline in order to provide families with greater flexibility given the uncertain times. 

The ELI First Steps Scholarship Program is designed in such a way as to help leverage available State financial assistance to increase the total amount of funding for child care in the Burlington market. As a result of this program design, every scholarship dollar generates more than double that amount in immediate, additional State funding support. To date, a total of approximately $246,000 ELI First Steps Scholarship Program dollars has leveraged an additional $514,000 in CCFAP funding for participating child care centers. The local funding also ensures that tuition is truly affordable for families, limiting any copayments to no more than 5 percent of the family income. 

By layering the ELI program on top of the State’s CCFAP, the City has been able to help create increased revenues for child care programs – which often operate on razor-thin margins – that have generated important benefits for child care providers. Partnering child care programs have shared, for instance, stories of being able to provide needed increases to teacher salaries thanks to the stable funding provided in part by the ELI First Steps Scholarship Program.

Learn more about the progress of the Burlington Early Learning Initiative in the ELI 2020 Annual Report.


Have questions or need further assistance? Email Rebecca at, or call 802-865-7533.