Weekly Update - Oct. 22

October 22, 2021


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Dear Neighbor, 

We all have medication in our cabinets that we may have stopped taking, never used, or even just totally forgot was there. Though they may be nothing more than a passing thought of "I need to remember to do something with those," expired, unwanted, and unused prescription medications can be incredibly dangerous. Studies have indicated that most abused prescription drugs come from family and friends, including from home medicine cabinet. With opioid overdose deaths increasing during the pandemic, it's critical to take action to help reduce the danger.


Saturday is the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) 21st Take Back Day, which is an opportunity for residents to safely dispose of expired, unwanted, and unused prescription medications. Over the 10-year span of Take Back Day, DEA has brought in more than 7,262 tons of prescription drugs.

On Saturday, officials will collect tablets, capsules, patches, and other solid forms of prescription drugs, and will continue to accept vaping devices and cartridges at its drop off locations provided lithium batteries are removed. Liquids (including intravenous solutions), syringes and other sharps, and illegal drugs will not be accepted.


The East Hartford Police and East Hartford Health Department will offer a "Take Back" location at the East Hartford Public Safety Complex (31 School Street) from 10AM-2PM. To locate a collection site near you, click here.


If you can't make it on Saturday, a year-round drug disposal location is available at CVS in Hartford (690 Wethersfield). Click here to find additional year-round locations.

In this email you'll find updates on district resources and news. Please click the links below to read the section that corresponds with the highlighted headline.

A NOTE: If you're having trouble clicking through the following links, open this email in a browser, use a computer or scroll through this email to the relevant section. 

The topics covered are as follows:

On Legislative Business

On Community Resources 

State Partners with Amazon to Provide Technical Skills Training

Through a partnership between Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) and Amazon, Connecticut residents will soon be able to obtain technical skills training for many currently in-demand jobs. Announced by Governor New Lamont and Amazon Web Services (AWS) officials, the partnership intends to provide training and education to more than 2,000 Connecticut residents by 2024.


The AWS Academy program will provide CSCU institutions with ready-to-teach, cloud computing curricula that prepares students for industry-recognized AWS certifications and in-demand cloud jobs. Educators at participating institutions have already started receiving instructor training. The non-credit certificate program classes, which will be available at each of Connecticut's community colleges next summer, will cost $795 and take place over a five-to-seven-week period.


I would like to know, what do you think of this issue?

Press Release: Governor Lamont Announces Collaboration Between Connecticut and Amazon Web Services To Train More Than 2,000 Residents for Careers in Cloud Computing
CT Post: CT launches Amazon-connected partnership to provide technical skills training to 2,000+ residents
WTNH: Amazon Web Services Academy now offered at CT community colleges

EPA Announces New Plan to Crack Down on PFAS Contaminations

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a three-year initiative to research, restrict, and remediate the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Commonly referred to as "forever chemicals," PFAS denotes a class of chemicals that have an elemental bond so effective that it is nearly impossible to break down. Though the chemical class has been linked to a long list of health problems, including reproductive issues, cancer, and severe kidney and liver damage, PFAS is readily available in many industrial and consumer products for their ability to repel water.


Once released, PFAS can easily migrate into the air, dust, food, soil, and water. PFAS contaminations have been identified in more than 2,300 locations across the country – Connecticut included. Most recently, CT faced a contamination in June 2019 when PFAS-containing firefighting foam from a private hangar at Bradley spilled into the Farmington River.


The new initiative from the EPA will include drinking water standards for PFAS by fall of 2023 as well as create rules to stop companies from dumping PFAS into waterways. The EPA will also implement several initiatives to help the nation better assess the effects and prevalence of PFAS by launching a national testing strategy, publishing PFAS toxicity assessments, and studying levels of PFAS in fish.


I would like to know, what do you think of this issue?

NBC News: Toxic 'forever chemicals' are everywhere. The EPA has a new plan to crack down.
CT Post: EPA unveils strategy to regulate toxic 'forever chemicals'
Map: PFAS Contamination in the U.S.

No-Excuse Absentee Ballots Available for November Elections

As they've been throughout the pandemic, absentee ballots will be available to all Connecticut voters for the upcoming municipal elections on Tuesday, November 2. In 2020, the state allowed all voters to vote by absentee ballot by adding "COVID-19" as a valid reason for requesting a ballot for any primary, election or referendum held before November 3, 2021.


Turnout in the 2020 presidential election reached a historic level, which state officials attribute to the expanded access to absentee ballots allowing more individuals to participate in our democracy. According to a CT Mirror analysis, over 400,000 more cast ballots in 2020, 37 percent of which used the absentee ballot.


To receive an absentee ballot, you must complete and sign an application to return to your town clerk. To find more information on voting by absentee, click here. To ensure that your ballot is received quickly, use a ballot drop box.


And, while you're at it – check you voter registration! You have until Tuesday, October 26 to register to vote and participate in the upcoming municipal elections. Register online, at the DMV, or in person at town hall.


I would like to know, what do you think of this issue?

The CT Mirror: Temporarily, for now, Connecticut eases access to absentee voting
NBC CT: Absentee Ballots Will Be Available for CT Voters in November
WSHU: Absentee ballots are now available for Connecticut residents

Today in CT History: A Poor Yankee Peddler from Harwinton Becomes a Railroad Tycoon

Collis Potter Huntington was born today in 1822, the sixth of nine children born to William and Elizabeth Huntington of Harwinton, Connecticut. The Huntington family, owners of a farm in a section of Harwinton fittingly known as “Poverty Hollow,” constantly struggled to make ends meet, forcing Collis to set off on his own as a teenager as an itinerant seller of wares — the archetypal 19th century Yankee peddler.


In his early twenties, Collis opened a highly successful hardware store in upstate New York with his brother Solon. Within a few years, he netted enough profit to travel westward to California and make a substantial fortune selling supplies to the thousands of gold prospectors who were pouring into the territory. Through his connections as an active member of California’s Republican party and as an active investor, he became one of four men who co-founded the Central Pacific Railroad Company in the early 1860s. The Central Pacific Railroad quickly became one of the most successful rail lines in the United States (and arguably still is, as one of the rail lines that eventually became the Union Pacific Railroad) and served as the western spur of the Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed in 1869.

Huntington quickly expanded his transportation empire, moving back to the East Coast in order to effectively lobby in Washington D.C. and New York on behalf of the Central Pacific Railroad and was directly involved in the founding of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, the Southern Pacific Railroad, and the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Virginia — the largest privately-owned shipyard in the United States.


At the time of his death in 1900, Huntington was one of the wealthiest and most influential railroad tycoons in the country. Yet he never forgot his hardscrabble Connecticut roots: Later in life, during a visit to his former hometown of Harwinton, Huntington remarked, “As often as I have returned to these my native hills have I been made glad that this was the place where I was born, and that I was born poor, for I think that was the reason, at least in part, of such success in life as I have been able to achieve.”


Learn more about Huntington and other interesting CT history facts by clicking here.

Access Health CT Open Enrollment  

The Access Health CT 2022 Open Enrollment Period starts on Monday, November 1 and enrollment runs through January 15, 2022. Get covered with quality and affordable health insurance plans. Select a plan by December 15 for coverage that starts on January 1, 2022. Or, if you enroll between December 16 and January 15, 2022, you will have coverage starting February 1, 2022. Learn more about the enrollment period by clicking here.


There is still time to participate in a Healthy Chat to help you to learn more about Access Health CT, the upcoming Open Enrollment Period, and the application process for health coverage. Register to join the upcoming Health Chat on Tuesday, October 26 at 6PM by clicking here.

Unemployment Benefits Overpayment Waiver

The Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) has recently reported that around 13,000 unemployment benefit recipients received overpayments throughout the pandemic. These claims constitute about $30 million in accidental overpayments. It is important to note that while this amount looks daunting, most of these overpayments were caused by simple errors at little to no fault of the claimant.


Since the announcement, many of you have reached out with concerns about overpayments and are wondering, "will I have to pay this money back?" The short answer is, not necessarily as you may qualify for a non-fraud overpayment waiver.

What is a waiver?


A waiver forgives part, or all, of the overpayment debt accrued by an unemployment claimant.


You may be eligible for a waiver of your overpayment if: 

  • There was an unintentional error on the part of the claimant, employer, or CTDOL.
  • There was no attempt to obtain unemployment benefits to which the claimant knew they were not eligible (fraud).
  • The Employment Security Appeals Division reverses a decision to grant unemployment benefits and that leaves the claimant with an overpayment debt.

Can I get a waiver?


Waivers will be considered for accidental overpayments only. CTDOL notifies claimants that they may be eligible for a waiver during the pre-determination process and sends a questionnaire that the claimant fills out and returns. Most waivers are granted for:

  • A mental or physical condition which would significantly reduce opportunity for employment.
  • An error on the part of CTDOL or the Appeals Division.
  • Claimant bankruptcy.
  • Economic grounds when it’s against equity and good conscience to have an overpayment repaid.

The questionnaire and hearing request must be completed and returned together to CTDOL within 14 days of the mail date (this is on the upper right corner of the pre-determination letter.) 


Please reach out to me if you need any assistance moving forward with this process, I will do all I can to help.

MCC Receives Grant to Support Scholarships for Precision Manufacturing Students

The Gene Haas Foundation has awarded Manchester Community College (MCC) with $14,000 in grants to support scholarships for MCC manufacturing students – marking the sixth year of support from the foundation. The scholarships, managed by MCC Foundation, are based on merit, and will be awarded to precision manufacturing students to cover tuition, books, and supplies that students are required to provide, such as personal tooling. Learn more by clicking here

Fall Leaf Collection Beginning Soon!

The Town of East Hartford will begin its annual leaf collection program on Monday, November 1. Leaves, properly placed on the curb, will be vacuumed ONE TIME, Monday through Saturday, beginning in the northwest corner of town around Pitkin Street and proceed north through the Burnham and Goodwin Street areas.


On November 1, a progress map will be posted here showing the areas completed and those anticipated. The map will be weather-dependent and subject to change. To receive phone, text, and/or email notifications of anticipated pickup in your area, subscribe to EH Alert by clicking here.


For any additional information, click here.

The Town of Manchester will manage fall leaf collection in two parts: Area 1 vacuum collection begins on Monday, November 8 and Area 2 collection begins Monday, November 22. Prior to your scheduled collection, rake leaves to the front of your property – do not block sidewalks or rake leaves into the street, that is a violation of town codes. Collection dates are subject to change due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.


In addition to the vacuum program, residents can also set out paper leaf bags for curbside collection on

the day of their normal refuse/recycling collection. Residents may also drop off loose or paper bagged leaves at the Transfer Station composting area year-round from 7:15AM-3PM, Monday – Saturday.


Full details on collection can be found here and to find your area click here. For any additional questions, contact the Customer Service & Information Center at (860) 647-5235.

Reasons to Celebrate: East Hartford Youth Services Turns 50 & Ground is Broken on Wickham Library

On Wednesday, I joined East Hartford Youth Services to celebrate their 50th birthday! Youth Services has been a dedicated and necessary department, offering youth and family counseling, programming, and outreach services to our community. Learn more about East Hartford Youth Services and their programs by clicking here.

It was a privilege to take part in the groundbreaking for the renovation and expansion of the historic Wickham Memorial Library on Thursday. With necessary maintenance upgrades to more accessible spaces for the community to use, this project will bring the over 80-year-old building into East Hartford’s future. Thank you to Mayor Marcia Leclerc, the Town Council, Library Director Sarah Morgan, and all who worked so hard to make this project a reality. To learn more about the project, click here.

COVID-19 Updates & Upcoming Vaccine Clinics

Ahead of next week's meeting of an FDA advisory committee to discuss Pfizer and BioNTech's request for authorization of the vaccine's use for children ages 5-11, the White House announced its plans to roll out vaccinations to that age group. According to the White House, the administration has procured enough vaccine doses for 28 million children of that age group, to be given by more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care providers. In addition to pharmacies, the administration will work to make shots available at schools and community health centers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met this week to authorize COVID-19 booster shots for recipients of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The following groups will be newly eligible for booster shots:

  • People 65 and older who received their second dose of the Moderna vaccine at least six months ago
  • People 18-64 years old who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 due to health conditions who received their second dose of the Moderna vaccine at least six months ago
  • People 18-64 years old “with frequent institutional or occupational exposure” to COVID-19 who received their second dose of the Moderna vaccine at least six months ago
  • Anyone 18 or older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago

Find more information on COVID-19 booster shots by clicking here.

The Town of Manchester announced changes to the town's mask mandate late last week "in response to a sustained improvement in COVID-19 transmission rates and decreased hospitalizations." As of 12:01AM on Friday, October 15, Acting General Manager Steve Stephanou and Mayor Jay Moran ended the Town's indoor mask mandate.


East Hartford continues to have a town-wide indoor mask mandate, which requires all residents over 2 years of age to wear masks when in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Please remember that persons who decline to wear a mask or face covering due to these circumstances shall provide a written documentation to qualify them from exemption. Individuals who fail to wear a face mask or face covering will be subject to a $100 fine.

The Town of East Hartford will host a free vaccine clinic at the YMCA of East Hartford (70A Canterbury Street) on Saturday, October 23 from 10AM-1PM. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson will be available. No appointment or insurance required. For more information, click here or contact the East Hartford Health Department at (860) 291-7324.

The Town of Manchester has worked with the Manchester Road Race to sponsor a free vaccine clinic on Saturday, November 6 in the cafeteria of Illing Middle School (225 East Middle Turnpike) from 9AM-2PM. The clinics are free, open to all, and will offer the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. First and second vaccinations, and Pfizer booster shots for those who qualify under current guidelines to receive them, will be available. For information on obtaining the vaccine, please contact the Manchester Health Department at (860) 647-3173 or healthdept@manchesterct.gov

It's so important that we continue the precautions that have worked: wear a face mask, observe social distancing, wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, get tested if you were in contact with anyone who's tested positive, etc. But, most importantly – please consider getting vaccinated if you haven't already.

For more information on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or to locate an appointment near you, click here or locate a DPH Mobile COVID-19 Vaccination clinic by clicking here. Those without access to the internet can call the Connecticut’s Vaccine Appointment Assist Line, available seven days a week from 8 AM to 8 PM, at (877) 918-2224.


For East Hartford-based COVID-19 updates and resources, click here. And, for Manchester-based COVID-19 updates and resources, click here.

Join Connecticut author Beth M. Caruso at Whiton Memorial Library on Monday, October 25 at 6:30PM as she discusses the overwhelming factors that led to the beginning of the witch trials in colonial New England. Copies of Beth’s historical novels will be available for purchase and signing. No registration required, click here for additional information.

Manchester's Recreation Division will be hosting a pop-up art exhibit to introduce the Parks and Facilities Master Plan beginning Monday, October 25. The exhibit, housed at WORK_SPACE (903 Main Street) through Friday, October 29, will feature visuals and information narratives to present the community's vision for the future. Learn more by clicking here.

The Manchester Recreation Division will be offering free community yoga classes on Friday, October 29, November 12, and December 10 from 6:30PM-7:30PM. All that is asked is that you bring a nonperishable food item to be donated to the Manchester Area Conference of Churches food pantry. The goal is to fill the pantry for those in need during the holiday season.


These are some of the items needed in the pantry: All Canned Vegetables, Canned Fruit, Stuffing, Gravy, Coffee, Sugar, Flour, Cereal, Jelly, Peanut Butter, Macaroni and Cheese, Rice, Pasta, Pastas Sauce, All Soups.


Please call the Recreation Department at (860) 647-3084 to register.

Design a festive fall votive candle holder for a cozy glow in your home with East Hartford Public Library. Register ahead of the event for a supply kit by clicking here, and then craft together over Zoom on Wednesday, October 20 at 3:30PM. Activity is best for tweens, teens, and adults.

East Hartford residents are invited to join this year's Trunk or Treat Drive Thru sponsored by the CT River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Pratt and Whitney, in conjunction with the Town of East Hartford. Trunk or Treat will be held rain or shine on Sunday, October 31 from 12PM-3PM on the Pratt and Whitney runway.


There is no fee to register, but pre-registration is required – this event is open to the first 500 pre-registered East Hartford families. Register here by Thursday, October 28 at 3 PM. Please complete only one registration per vehicle; each person riding in the vehicle does not need to register separately.

Calling all current and future babysitters ages 11 - 15! The East Hartford Parks & Recreation Department is offering an American Red Cross Babysitter Training course on Saturday, November 6, 9AM-4PM. Teens will gain training on how to act professionally while safely caring for children and how to best manage real life situations. The fee for residents is $45, which includes course handbook, emergency reference guide, CD-ROMs and the certification fee. Spaces are limited, register now by clicking here.

My office is always open if you or your family are in need of assistance. Please do not hesitate to contact me by email at Jason.Rojas@cga.ct.gov or by phone at 860-240-8541.


Jason Rojas


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