Baby Bonds Proposal is Government Working at its Best

As seen in VTDigger, The Times-Argus, The Bennington Banner, The Caledonian Record, The Brattleboro Reformer and Vermont Biz.

This commentary is by Kristin Warner, Public Policy Manager for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR). VBSR is a statewide, nonprofit business association with a mission to leverage the power of business for positive social and environmental impact. Sources for claims made in this essay can be found here.

Vermont sets the national standard for socially responsible businesses. Our state has the most B Corporations per capita in the country – for-profit businesses certified for meeting standards of excellence in environmental and social responsibility, compliance, and transparency. At Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR), we are 700 members strong and proud of our collective work to leverage the power of business to support Vermont communities.

But despite our state’s business successes, pathways to entrepreneurship remain limited for many Vermonters. VBSR members know firsthand the cost of a business startup, including inventory, technology, leased space, equipment, marketing and, of course, capital. A great idea and drive are just part of what it takes to operate a business. That’s why VBSR is supporting H.769, a bill to establish a Baby Bonds program in Vermont and ensure a birthright to capital for Vermont’s most vulnerable.

The program would invest $3,200 for every Vermont child born on Medicaid. Individuals could claim their baby bond between ages 18 and 30, with the initial investment projected to grow to $11,500 by age 18 and $24,500 by age 30. The funds must be used for wealth-building assets like buying a home in Vermont, pursuing higher education or job training, saving for retirement, and/or starting or investing in a business in Vermont.

By empowering Vermont’s most vulnerable with financial resources, a Baby Bonds program would support asset and wealth-building, serving as a great equalizer for Vermonters born into the most difficult economic circumstances. While many consider education as a path to upward social mobility, access to higher education is reduced for students of poor backgrounds, limiting their ability to transcend the poverty they came from.

America’s widening wealth gap is now a harrowing, nearly impassable ravine, and legislation like H.769 provides creative, compassionate, and economically responsible alternatives to a system that is otherwise failing families. The program would provide young, economically disadvantaged Vermonters with capital to invest in or start a business of their own, right here in Vermont.

As a mother and a fourth generation Vermonter with direct experience with generational poverty, this program would have given my family opportunities that were not available to us.

The Vermont Baby Bonds proposal is government working at its best. I am so profoundly grateful to the architects of this bill and those who support it for thinking of the underdog and working to improve the quality of life for those with the least. Creativity, drive, and innovative spirit are not the sole province of those who happen to already be wealthy or have access to capital.

A Vermont Baby Bonds program would strengthen Vermont’s economy and help more people start their career path, adding to our state’s diverse industries while enhancing our local economies. I urge lawmakers to invest in our state’s future by passing this legislation this year.