State Capitol Update Week of July 27July 31, 2020
July’s special legislative sessions have now adjourned, with the House and Senate having passed all four bills under consideration, expanding access to absentee ballots for the November election, capping insulin and related costs, making telehealth more widely available, and increasing police accountability and transparency. These bills are now on their way to the Governor, who has indicated he will sign them.
This morning I read Congressman John Lewis’s final words, written in the last hours of his life, intended to be published after his death. (You can read them here). Among many powerful words from a man who moved people, politically, physically, and emotionally, all his life, was his statement that “Democracy is not a state. It is an act….” That has a particular resonance in this moment, when the pandemic’s pressures and losses have worn us thin, and when social media bubbles tend to feed us more extreme reinforcements of our own biases and fears. If we are passive, taking in the information others put in front of us, we grow more polarized. If we act, seeking out conversations with those who disagree, not being afraid to hear messages that are sometimes hurtful, being willing to correct misunderstandings and push back against divisiveness, we can get to a better place. But it will always require work, and action. Democracy is not passive, and neither is compromise.
Another issue many of us are grappling with is the reopening of our schools, and whether our children will (or should) return to in-person learning in the fall. I have two college-aged kids, and my husband and I parse every word of the communications from their schools to discern what is going to happen in the fall, and how we should respond in turn. As schools across the state make their plans, parents and teachers of elementary and high school students have been asked a yes or no question: will you return to school (rather than continuing to learn or teach remotely)? The answer, for many that I have spoken with, is neither yes nor no, it’s “yes, if.” If appropriate precautions are taken, if the school has adequate resources, if both teachers and students are safe. We now know that a quarter of the students in the state never logged in this spring, didn’t further their education at all, and the State Board of Education is drilling down on what can be done to be sure that doesn’t happen again, including making sure families have adequate internet access. Our schools must reopen if we’re going to educate our kids, and we must ensure our schools have the resources and flexibility they need to do that safely.
CT has earned top marks in the country for its efforts to rein in the COVID-19 pandemic, and that may be the best marketing campaign we have ever conducted. Real estate markets and local school enrollment have shown an influx of people moving into the state. The Governor is now unveiling businessct.gov, a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs looking to start a business here, and interest is strong as hundreds of businesses are opening in CT. Again, it’s not a choice between public health and the economy: they go hand in hand. When we protect public health, we also strengthen our economy. For more, see https://ctmirror.org/2020/07/29/a-digital-welcome-mat-for-business-goes-live-just-in-time/
On that note, I hope you can join me for another FB Live Town Hall on Wednesday, August 5 at 7:00 pm, with Dr. Ulysses Wu, an infectious disease specialist at Hartford Hospital.
Here’s a list of today’s topics:
- Governor Lamont signs Executive Order No. 7LLL re child protection matters
- Regional travel advisory expanded to include more locations with high COVID-19 infection rates
- FEMA approves extension of non-congregate sheltering program through September 1
- Everybody Learns Initiative: $43.5 million to address Connecticut’s digital divide
For several additional graphs and tables containing more data, including a list of cases in every municipality, visit ct.gov/coronavirus.
Governor Lamont signs Executive Order No. 7LLL enacting the following provisions:
· Resumption of requirements and deadlines in child protection matters: Amends Executive Order No. 7G, Section 2 to end the suspension of requirements or deadlines related to child protection matters pending before the Superior Court.
Regional travel advisory expanded to include more locations with high COVID-19 infection rates
The regional travel advisory between Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York that went into effect last month and directs incoming travelers from states with a significant community spread of COVID-19 to self-quarantine for a 14-day period was updated today and now also includes Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC.
The quarantine applies to any person arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.
As of today, the full list of locations meeting this criteria includes:
· North Carolina
· North Dakota
· New Mexico
· Puerto Rico
· South Carolina
· Washington, D.C.
This list will continue to be updated on a regular basis as the situation develops across the country. Anyone seeking the most up-to-date information on the regional travel advisory is encouraged to visit the state’s coronavirus website at portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/travel.
FEMA approves extension of non-congregate sheltering program through September 1
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved a 30-day extension of the non-congregate sheltering authorization under the FEMA Public Assistance program until September 1, 2020. This approval was previously set to expire on August 1, 2020. This vital program, which was initially approved in March, provides non-congregate housing to certain high-risk individuals, including those have COVID-19 or have been in contact with COVID-19 positive individuals. It provides the state and its municipalities with a 75 percent reimbursement of all eligible costs associated with this housing.
The program includes non-congregate housing for:
· Those at high risk of exposure in public service;
· Individuals in at-risk facilities such as group homes, nursing homes, long-term care sites, and alternative care facilities;
· First responders and health care workers who have been exposed and cannot return home;
· Homeless individuals in congregate shelters; and
· Individuals in domestic violence shelters.
Connecticut’s implementation of this program has been highlighted as a best practice by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
Everybody Learns Initiative: $43.5 million to address Connecticut’s digital divide
Governor Ned Lamont announced that his administration is launching the Everybody Learns initiative: a $43.5 million investment in remote learning solutions to close the digital divide in Connecticut and empower students across the state to learn from home, especially as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues impacting the country. The funding – which comes from the state’s portion of the federal CARES Act, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund – will be used to purchase 50,000 laptops for students, 12 months of access to at-home internet for 60,000 students, create public hotspots free to the public at 200 community sites across the state, and offer social emotional learning content to school districts statewide.
The number of students identified as in need of access to laptops and at-home internet is based on survey information that was submitted to the State Department of Education and Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology. The state will purchase the at-home internet access through several broadband internet companies, including Altice USA/Optimum, Atlantic Broadband, Comcast, Cox, and Charter. The personal hotspots will be covered by cellular signal through the student hotspot provider Kajeet.
The State Department of Education has made social and emotional well-being and mental health supports a priority given its relationship to improving conditions for learning and ultimately improving students’ school and life outcomes. During the long period of class cancellation, the need for quality social emotional and mental health supports for students and educators has been intensified by pandemic related trauma, anxiety, and distance from the relationships formed at school. Putting a strong program of social and emotional learning (SEL) and mental health supports in place can ease the transition and mitigate issues that may otherwise occur.
Districts will begin receiving communication from the state today about the process by which they will receive their laptops, broadband vouchers or Kajeet hotspots. Community sites will soon receive communication from CEN about hotspots.
PURA must suspend the Eversource rate increase
At a time when so many of us are pushed to the financial edge, many are seeing dramatic increases in their electric bills. While some of this is due to increased electric usage by families working and studying from home all day, part of it is due to a delivery rate increase for Eversource that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) approved last year. I have joined with other legislators to demand explanations, and to ask that PURA suspend the July 1 delivery rate increase and related charges. PURA has agreed to open a formal proceeding, which should provide an opportunity to hear from ratepayers, utilities, and state regulators.
Please reach out to PURA with your concerns at 1-800-382-4586 or by email 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.