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First Steps Scholarship Program

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City is re-opening the application process and including not only Burlington families looking for high quality care for children 0 - 3 years old, but also those families with a spot in a high-quality care setting that are suddenly operating with a lower income than before the pandemic and economic crisis began. If your family income is at or below 65 percent of Area Median Income and you live in Burlington, you may be eligible to apply for this program.

A link to the current, fillable application is available here. A link to the PDF version of the application is available here.

A overview of the program follows below. Additional contact information for questions is included in the application. 

The City of Burlington’s Early Learning Initiative (ELI) has two components: A scholarship program for qualifying Burlington families known as the First Steps Scholarship Program and a capacity grant program for high-quality child care providers to help increase the number of available infant and toddler slots in Burlington. The scholarship program re-opened its application for a second year on March 2, 2020, and the capacity grant application is currently open and available at this link for providers interested in getting City capacity grants to support expansion of high quality spots in Burlington.

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 are more likely to 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 First Steps Scholarship Program is an effort to increase access to high-quality child care for low income Burlington children through the provision of scholarships. In the first year, program successfully placed the goal of 20 qualifying Burlington children into high-quality childcare. The Mayor's goal in the second year is to double the size of the program. Scholarship recipients must be Burlington residents whose household income is at or below 65 percent of Area Median Income and who are not currently enrolled in the State child care subsidy program. Child care providers are not limited to Burlington - they must be serving Burlington residents to participate in the program. 65 percent of AMI is about $59,000 for a family of four, and detailed rates by family size are included in the FAQ below.

The goal of the ELI Scholarship Program is to identify those eligible Burlington children not currently receiving State Child Care Federal Assistance Program (CCFAP) benefits, provide them scholarships to help access high-quality care, and also help enroll them in CCFAP.  The investment of City dollars and the leveraging of CCFAP not only helps connect children with high quality care, but also leads to improved education and health outcomes and increased public savings over time. The program design has benefited substantially from the input of a range of community stakeholders, including representatives from the Burlington School District, the UVM Medical Center, Head Start, the Vermont Community Loan Foundation, and many child care providers.

In the pilot year of the scholarship program, the intention is to provide ELI scholarships for 20 or more Burlington families eligible for CCFAP but not currently enrolled in high quality childcare, focusing on those children born on or between August 31, 2017 and July 1, 2019. In future years, the City hopes to increase the size of the program.

Please see the one-page flyer that provides the most important details on the program and also offers a summary in multiple languages. Please note, additional information will be included for the June 8 application round.

Capacity Grant Program

Alongside the scholarship program, the City began in 2018 to provide capacity grants to high quality Burlington child care centers to increase the overall number of infant and toddler spots available in the community. These awards support the growth of high-quality child care, which has been demonstrated to help prepare children for school, narrow the opportunity gap, improve future health and education outcomes, and reduce future public spending.  The next round of award winners is expected to be announced in March 2019.

In 2018, the City made awards to 7 applicants, detailed below. In 2019, funding will be split between the scholarship program and the capacity grant program. Application are reviewed by a stakeholder advisory grant committee that includes the Chair of the City Council's Community Development & Neighborhood Revitalization Committee and a recommendation shared with the Mayor. The Mayor puts forward a proposal to the City Council for review and approval based on this recommendations. 

2018 & 2019 Awardee

Funding Totals

Burlington Children’s Space

$150,000

Janet S. Munt Family Room

$45,000

Full Circle Preschool

$19,000

Pine Forest Children’s Center

$50,000

Robins Nest Children’s Center

$10,275

Sara Holbrook Community Center

$150,000

Greater Burlington YMCA

$130,000

Champlain Valley Head Start $90,849
Fletcher Free Library $17,300