This weekend included a graduation for the record books, as the Housatonic Valley Regional High School Class of 2020 celebrated theirs at Lime Rock Park racetrack on Sunday, which was also a great way to celebrate Father’s Day. Socially distanced cars filled with graduates and their proud families lined up on the track, aimed at the Sam Posey Straightaway, as speakers including Class President Jessy Hagard, Salutatorian Brianna Webb, and Valedictorian Lindsey Clark shared the many challenges the Class of 2020 has had to tackle in order to make it to the finish line from an announcer’s booth overlooking the track.
To all the graduates this year, my heartfelt congratulations! The world will need the determination and creativity you brought to your education this year.
Here’s a list of today’s topics:
- Governor Lamont encourages participation in statewide VITA program to combat financial insecurity during COVID-19 pandemic.
- Connecticut Department of Labor issues update on the establishment of a new contact center and the latest data on unemployment claims
- FEMA approves extension for emergency feeding program through July 20
|For several additional graphs and tables containing more data, including a list of cases in every municipality, visit ct.gov/coronavirus and click the link that is labeled, “COVID-19 Data Tracker.”
Governor Lamont encourages participation in statewide VITA program to combat financial insecurity during COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Ned Lamont today announced his support for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and its statewide expansion. The program provides free help for Connecticut’s low-income and ALICE (or “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed”) families to file tax returns, allowing them to receive tax credits and Coronavirus economic impact checks and to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. All residents making up to $56,000 in income are eligible for the services. Administered by the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS), the virtual VITA program is the first IRS-approved end-to-end digital portal to carry out these services, allowing it to rapidly scale operations statewide.
Residents can access the full Virtual VITA services online at www.cahs.org/covid_relief. Residents can also dial 2-1-1 to find the nearest in-person VITA service site or the nearest virtual VITA portal, which offers computers for residents to log on and submit their claims. VITA works with municipalities and local community groups to provide service and accommodate residents across the state.
Economic impact payments available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples, and up to $500 for each qualifying child are only available to those who have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, so virtual VITA opens the door for residents who don’t normally file a tax return to receive sorely needed financial support.
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, beneficiaries of VITA’s tax filing service have received an average of approximately $3,000 from stimulus checks and tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit from filing their tax returns. Those whom VITA has also helped file for unemployment benefits will receive average additional benefits of approximately $20,000 during the year. In total, VITA has delivered approximately $30 million this past year in funds received for its beneficiaries in Connecticut.
CAHS has been supported in its expansion by the philanthropic organization 4-CT, which was created with the express purpose of providing emergency assistance to the state’s residents during the current pandemic.
Connecticut residents who have not filed a 2019 tax return or who have become unemployed but have not yet filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance should visit the CAHS website to learn if they are eligible and register for VITA’s free assistance. VITA also recently announced a Referral Incentive Program, whereby philanthropic organizations within Connecticut can receive cash bonuses for referring eligible VITA beneficiaries who successfully complete the program.
VITA estimates that as many as 140,000 people across the State of Connecticut may be eligible for some type of cash benefit from the government. The deadline for filing tax returns has been extended to July 15, 2020, and the deadline for applying for CARES stimulus funds is October 15, 2020.
|Connecticut Department of Labor issues update on the establishment of a new contact center and the latest data on unemployment claims
The Connecticut Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby announced that his agency is on track to launch its renewed consumer contact center in mid-July. The improved contact center will increase the number of customer service representatives available and improve capacity at the agency by putting more communications platforms in use for customers. Currently, the agency has about 100 customer service representatives that are shifted between state and federal programs, and about 40 staff answering phone calls. The consumer contact center will add 60 new customer service representatives that can continue to work with applicants via phone and email, plus it includes new text, chat, call back, and virtual assistant features.
Regarding unemployment insurance applications, Commissioner Westby said that the agency has received 635,722 claims since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and 617,296 of them have been processed. Claims processing time is now down to about one or two weeks – a significant improvement from the height of the pandemic when it was about six weeks. Customers with out-of-state wages, foreign worker status, or earnings from a federal partner (like the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs) require the department to wait for verification before completing the claim.
Since March 13, the Connecticut Department of Labor has disbursed:
· $900 million in state unemployment benefits (UI);
· $75 million in pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA);
· $38 million in pandemic emergency unemployment compensation (PEUC) for individuals who have exhausted regular UI benefits; and
· $1.76 billion in federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC), the additional weekly benefit that expires on July 25, 2020.
For more information, read the press release that was issued today by the Connecticut Department of Labor.
FEMA approves extension for emergency feeding program through July 20
The State of Connecticut has received an extension from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for approval to apply for reimbursement for statewide emergency feeding efforts until July 20. These vital efforts will continue to be coordinated by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture in partnership with the many state and local agencies and nonprofit providers, including community food banks.
FEMA has approved providing food support to the following populations:
· Individuals infected or exposed to COVID-19 that require isolation and quarantine but not hospitalization;
· Individuals who are asymptomatic but are at high risk, such as people over 65 or those who have certain underlying health conditions; and
· Individuals who do not have the resources to prepare or obtain meals, are facing food insecurity, and are not eligible for other public nutrition programs.
This extension helps the state ensure that it can continue to provide food support to the many residents, families, and children impacted by COVID-19.
Got a favorite farmer’s market?
The 12th annual Farmers Market Celebration has begun!
American Farmland Trust shared that, from now through September 20, 2020 local food lovers from small towns and big cities across America are asked to vote for the most essential market in their community, helping their favorite market win national recognition and new cash prizes.
How can you participate?
- Find your favorite market at markets.farmland.org and cast your vote. Consider leaving a review with some kind words about why you appreciate your market.
- If you’re someone who regularly attends a farmers market, snap a photo or take a video and upload it to social media. Help showcase the vital role farmers markets are playing this summer. Use the #NoFarmsNoFood hashtag and tag us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Need help or have questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Governor Lamont encourages residents to sign up for the state’s CTAlert notification system
Governor Lamont is encouraging Connecticut residents to sign up for CTAlert, the state’s emergency alert system, which provides text message notifications to users. To subscribe, text the keyword COVIDCT to 888-777.
Providing information to Connecticut residents
For the most up-to-date information from the State of Connecticut on COVID-19, including an FAQ and other guidance and resources, residents are encouraged to visit ct.gov/coronavirus.
Individuals who have general questions that are not answered on the website can also call 2-1-1 for assistance. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and has multilingual assistance. Relay services can be accessed by calling 7-1-1. Anyone who is out-of-state or using Relay can connect to Connecticut 2-1-1 toll free by dialing 1-800-203-1234. The hotline is intended to be used by individuals who are not experiencing symptoms but may have general questions related to COVID-19. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms is strongly urged to contact their medical provider.