Connect with us

New Hampshire

After a year of ‘teeny tiny steps,’ advocates aim for bigger child care fixes • New Hampshire Bulletin

Published

on

After a year of ‘teeny tiny steps,’ advocates aim for bigger child care fixes • New Hampshire Bulletin


Two years ago, the House speaker appointed a special committee to solve or at least mitigate the child care crisis in New Hampshire. There’s disagreement among lawmakers and child care advocates about its success.

Committee members have sent a few bills to the governor seeking to tweak staffing ratios to allow workers to take additional children. Others would ease zoning requirements for in-home providers and allow a child to remain in child care for more than 13 hours a day in some situations. One would provide supplemental scholarship funding for children experiencing developmental delays.

“Teeny tiny steps” was how Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, a Concord Democrat on the committee, described the legislative efforts. Some of those steps concern her, she said. Wallner, who ran a day care for many years, worries expanding ratios are a step backward if they mean each child will get less care.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been significant attention or other investments in addressing the child care crisis since the pandemic put the shortage of affordable quality care on lawmakers’ radar. 

Advertisement

The state has invested nearly $160 million in pandemic assistance, most of it federal dollars, to keep child care providers afloat. Last year, in what advocates called one of the Legislature’s biggest investments, the Senate put $15 million in the budget to vastly increase income thresholds for the state’s child care scholarship to make more families eligible. This year, lawmakers supported a bill that would spend $1 million to increase child care workers’ eligibility for the same scholarship.

Meanwhile, as advocates and lawmakers await the governor’s action on pending bills, they are looking ahead to the fall elections and next year’s budget process with hopes of achieving much more next year. 

Here’s what to know about the child care landscape in New Hampshire.

A single female earning the median income with no state assistance would have paid 61 percent of her earnings on child care for an infant and 4-year-old during 2018-2022, according to a study from the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. (Screenshot)

Child care remains incredibly expensive and hard to find.

Last year, the average annual cost of center-based child care for an infant and 4-year-old was $31,868, a 12.5 percent increase from the prior year, according to New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute’s recent report, The Fragile Economics of the Child Care Sector

For married couples earning the median income, $145,289, that would have reflected 20 percent of their annual household income, the report said. Using the same census data, the institute determined that would have equaled 41 percent of annual income for a single man and 61 percent for a single woman. 

Advertisement

That’s far above the 7 percent of annual income the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deems affordable. 

Add the state’s high housing costs, and many young Granite State families may effectively have to choose between buying a home or having a child, the NHFPI report said. 

Meanwhile, the pre-pandemic shortage of child care slots continues. 

The analysis found that between 2018 and 2022, New Hampshire saw an average annual shortage of about 8,400 slots. 

Ratio changes are controversial.

Ross Berry of Weare, a Republican who until recently served in the House and chaired that chamber’s Special Committee on Childcare, believed tweaking ratios would have an immediate and significant effect.

Advertisement

Lawmakers passed two bills doing that. 

One would allow in-home providers to care for four children in addition to their own kids; the current limit is three. The other would slightly increase the number of infants and toddlers allowed in a child care classroom based on staffing.

Berry, who runs a child care center in Epsom with his wife, describes it as a math solution.

“If there are 330 licensed providers (in the state) and we can now take two kids in a demographic that need it most, we just created 660 new slots throughout the state without spending a single dollar in taxpayer money,” he said. “We’d see immediate results.”

Annie Hopkins and her son, Alex, of Portsmouth, attended the state’s first Chamber of Mothers meeting in May. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Berry acknowledged the results would likely be more modest because not all child care centers would have the space or staff to qualify. And based on the feedback lawmakers got, many providers wouldn’t participate. 

Michele Merritt, president of the advocacy group New Futures, was among those who urged the committee to defeat the bill, saying providers opposed it.

Advertisement

“The opinion of these individuals could not have been more clear – addressing staffing ratios is not the solution,” she wrote. “It would burden already burnt-out staff, create unsafe environments for children, and is simply irresponsible.”

Rebecca Woitkowski, the child and family policy director for the organization, said last week child care advocates will be watching to see how the bill is implemented if the governor signs it. Like Wallner, Woitkowski sees both bills as small changes that won’t solve the child care crisis. 

“I don’t think there will be a ton of centers that get a waiver (to expand class size),” she said. “We have to do a lot more in the state overall to strengthen our child care system.” 

More people are eligible for more generous assistance.

The most significant child care legislation came last year, not this year, said Jackie Cowell, executive director of the advocacy group Early Learning NH. 

Lawmakers included $15 million in the budget to significantly expand the state’s child care scholarship program. Cowell called it transformational. She’s worried, however, that many parents who earned too much to qualify in prior years don’t know they might be eligible now. 

Advertisement

Until the eligibility changes took effect in January, a family of three could earn no more than $65,000 a year to be eligible. That limit now is $89,100. And families who receive a child care scholarship will pay no more than 7 percent of their gross income on child care. 

“People, honestly, before the change, could easily spend 20 to 30 percent of their gross income on child care,” Cowell said. “Sometimes more than half of take-home pay was for child care.”

Parents must submit an application through the state’s general assistance portal, NH Easy, though it is difficult to find information about the program on the site. Parents can also complete a paper application or apply at their local Department of Health and Human Services office.

Tara Ryan, of Durham, founded the state’s first chapter of Chamber of Mothers in May hoping to increase support for families and children. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Advocates want child care on the ballot.

Until her friends began having children, Tara Ryan, of Durham, thought all parents got three months of paid parental leave because it’s common in the technology field she and her husband were working in. 

Now a mother herself, Ryan has discovered how untrue that is – and how hard it is to find affordable child care. She launched the state’s first chapter of Chamber of Mothers in Portsmouth last month determined to change that. Ryan’s message was written on their T-shirt: “Vote like a mother.”

The group is still determining whether it will take up paid family leave, affordable child care, or material health supports first. The goal is to make parents and children a key part of the narrative and legislative agenda.

Advertisement

“We are just moms. We don’t have the political connections,” Ryan said. “My story is not the only one to tell. There are so many stories.”

Her effort won’t be the only one. 

Save the Children Action Network, based in Washington, D.C., recently hosted forums with the four gubernatorial candidates focused on the child care crisis. New Futures and Early Learning  NH plan to continue their advocacy, too. Wallner hopes to continue her work on the House Special Committee on Childcare, too. 

“I was happy to see this year that we were able to demystify that access to child care is not just a mothers’ issue,” said Woitkowski, of New Futures. “That it’s something the state should invest in because it’s a common good and it’s important for child health and development, and really important to the economy of the state.”

Cowell, of Early Learning NH, intends to make that a statewide conversation. 

Advertisement

“One of the priorities for the future is to really work together with the Legislature, business community, policy makers, moms and dads … to find another funding source or sources to really raise the compensation for the child care field,” she said. “It can’t just be on the back of the families that need them.” 



Source link

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New Hampshire

UNH researchers identify which radicchio varieties can thrive in New England

Published

on

UNH researchers identify which radicchio varieties can thrive in New England


You might notice a vegetable with unusual pink leaves at farmers markets this fall. While often mistaken for cabbage or lettuce, the culprit is actually radicchio, which is native to Italy.

For local farmers, the crop offers an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Radicchio is increasing in popularity amongst consumers and restaurants for its unique color, flavor and health benefits. But researchers say there’s still a lot to learn about its performance in New England.

University of New Hampshire researchers examined over thirty varieties of radicchio to learn how farmers in the region can grow the leafy green.

Becky Sideman is a professor of agriculture, nutrition and food systems at UNH and lead author of the study. She said that the crop makes for interesting research due to its genetic variability.

Advertisement

“It’s got more diversity in it than pretty much any other vegetable crop I can think of,” Sideman said. There’s all these types and colors, and they’re used for different culinary purposes.”

Some varieties of radicchio can be easily impacted by climate conditions. Under heat and other sources of stress, the vegetable can see bolting, early flowering that increases bitterness, or tip burn, a form of rotting at the edges. In New England, it’s typical for less than half of radicchio plants to become marketable heads, according to the UNH study.

For Sideman and her team, it’s important to understand which radicchio varieties produce the greatest number of marketable heads consistently. The unusual dry growing season of 2022 and extreme wet conditions in 2023 allowed researchers to see how the crop fared under a variety of stressors.

“One thing that was kind of exciting for us to see is that some varieties were really consistent in their performance between those two years,” she said. “It’s early to tell, but that suggests that they might be able to take what the climate throws at them a little better than maybe some varieties or some crops.”

The study’s results found that amongst seven main radicchio types, the chioggia type and varieties had the best marketability in combination with disease resistance.

Advertisement

This is the type of radicchio most familiar to consumers, with its traditional red coloring.

Sideman and her team plan to continue their research on radicchio this fall, and hope to better understand how planting times will impact the plant’s harvest window.





Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

New Hampshire

Concord Police Mum About Person Found Dead Inside Heights Townhouse

Published

on

Concord Police Mum About Person Found Dead Inside Heights Townhouse


CONCORD, NH — Concord police are investigating a death inside a townhouse but are not saying much about the situation.

Police were sent to 44 Northeast Village Road Saturday after receiving a tip about packages piling up at the townhouse and neighbors not seeing the man or his dog in about a week. Around 1:15 p.m., a tenant in the complex called the police back with more information, and officers returned to the scene. After examining the apartment just before 2 p.m., they called fire and rescue teams to confirm a person found inside was dead.

Concord fire and rescue teams confirmed the body was code gray, and more officers arrived, including technicians who spent several hours gathering evidence.

Find out what’s happening in Concordwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Deputy Police Chief John Thomas of the Concord Police Department said Wednesday the incident was still under investigation but there was no danger to the community or neighborhood.

Advertisement

The occupant of the townhouse was renting the unit from its owner. According to neighbors, the tenant’s Jeep was not in the parking lot and had not been seen for about a week.

Find out what’s happening in Concordwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Concord police were at the home in August 2021, investigating a burglary report involving a man who was struck in the head with a hammer or hand-held pitchfork tool. He was seen running from the building and screaming. Two suspects, reportedly involved in the burglary and attack, were known to the victim. One had a lengthy criminal history, according to a report on Patch.

Do you have a news tip? Please email it to tony.schinella@patch.com. View videos on Tony Schinella’s YouTube.com channel or Rumble.com channel. Follow the NH politics Twitter account @NHPatchPolitics for all our campaign coverage.


Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.

To request removal of your name from an arrest report, submit these required items to arrestreports@patch.com.



Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

New Hampshire

Where to stay near Loudon, NH for USA TODAY 301 New Hampshire NASCAR weekend

Published

on

Where to stay near Loudon, NH for USA TODAY 301 New Hampshire NASCAR weekend


The NASCAR Cup Series is running the USA TODAY 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Fans traveling to see the race can select from a variety of accommodations to stay at for the race weekend. Saturday features a doubleheader with the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday.

In addition to tickets, here are some hotel and rental options for the weekend with check-in on Friday, June 21 and check out on Sunday, June 23.

Advertisement

SHOP: NASCAR Cup Series 2024 USA TODAY 301 tickets at New Hampshire

Rentals from Vrbo for NASCAR Cup Series USA TODAY 301 at New Hampshire

In addition to the deals listed below, there are plenty other Vrbo options available for fans traveling for the race.

  • Two-person campsite, no electricity but has running water, $568 total (View at Vrbo)
  • One bedroom, one bathroom house to sleep two guests, $709 total (View at Vrbo)
  • Two bedroom, three bathroom house to sleep eight guests, $793 total (View at Vrbo)
  • Two bedroom, two bathroom house to sleep six guests, $914 total (View at Vrbo)

Hotels for NASCAR Cup Series USA TODAY 301 race weekend at New Hampshire

Here are some hotel options found on TripAdvisor, based on price and distance to New Hampshire Motor Speedway (subject to availability).

  • Super 8 by Wyndham Tilton/Lake Winnipesaukee, 1.4 miles from the speedway, $627 total (Hotels.com)
  • Weirs Beach Motel and Cottages, 11.3 miles from the speedway, $502 total (Booking.com)
  • Quality Inn Loudon – Concord, 16.4 miles from the speedway, $798 total (Booking.com)
  • Red Carpet Inn, 21.2 miles from the speedway, $410 total (Expedia)
  • Best Western Plymouth Inn-White Mountains, 23.9 miles from the speedway, $450 total (Booking.com)
  • Quality Inn, 35.5 miles from the speedway, $410 total (Booking.com)
  • Super 8 by Wyndham Manchester Airport, 37.1 miles from the speedway, $411 total (Booking.com)

Tickets and hotels are selling quickly for the NASCAR Cup Series USA TODAY 301 race weekend at New Hampshire. Act now to get your tickets and place to stay before they’re all gone.

We occasionally recommend interesting products and services. If you make a purchase by clicking one of the links, we may earn an affiliate fee. USA TODAY Network newsrooms operate independently, and this doesn’t influence our coverage.



Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending