5 Ways the $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan May Affect Your Finances

The American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law on March 11. Here’s what Connecticut residents need to know. Direct Payments If you are single and make less than $75,000, you will receive $1,400 from the federal government. That payment will phase out up at $80,000. If you are single and make more than $80,000 you are ineligible. Married couples making less than $150,000 will receive a full payment of $2,800, plus an additional $1,400 for each dependent child. Couples with a combined income of between $150,000 and $160,000 will receive a fraction of the payment. Those who make over

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Federal Aid Announced to Compensate Connecticut Restaurants for 2020 Losses

A loosening of pandemic restrictions and a large federal aid package could represent a turning point for Connecticut restaurants according to Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. “For us, to get a specific restaurant fund … this is huge, it’s a big deal,” Dolch told CT Examiner at a press conference in Manchester on Thursday. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law on March 11, includes a “Restaurant Revitalization Fund” of $28.6 billion.   As written, the legislation will compensate restaurants for the full amount of business losses in 2020 when compared to 2019 revenue. 

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Legislators Debate Two Alternatives for Funding Connecticut’s ‘Choice’ Schools

So you have a child who loves insects, airplanes and playing with a toy doctor’s kit. You want to send her to a science-focused magnet school in New London, but you live in Montville.  The way it works today, the state will provide some funding to the magnet school to support your child’s education, but it will also send a portion of the funding to schools in Montville. In 2021, the district of Montville would receive $5,659 — the per-pupil grant determined by the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula — and the magnet school would receive between $3,060 and $8,050

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Legislators Debate Three Proposals for Healthcare

Legislators are debating a trifecta of bills addressing one of the biggest concerns Connecticut residents are facing this year — the cost of healthcare.   The first bill — the Democrats’ public option plan — would allow individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance on the state exchange.  The second bill, proposed by Gov. Ned Lamont, would tax health insurers and use the money to create subsidies for people who buy insurance on the state exchange, Access Health.  On Thursday, legislators held a public hearing on a third alternative: a Republican-backed combination of reinsurance and benchmarking that lawmakers say would better

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Legislators Debate Change in Redistricting for Connecticut’s Prison Populations

As Connecticut’s electoral maps are redrawn this year — new legislation could change the way that prisoners are counted, shifting local district lines and funding between rural and urban districts. State Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, has proposed a bill that would count prisoners in their last district of residence rather than in the district where the prisons are located.  Winfield told CT Examiner in February that, because prisoners don’t have the right to vote, the representatives in the districts where the prisons are located generally don’t support policies that benefit the prisoners. Nor do the prisoners take part in the

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COVID Risk for New and Expecting Mothers Raises Questions on Vaccination

A lack of clear data on how the COVID-19 vaccines can affect women who are expecting or nursing a baby leaves these women in a difficult position when deciding whether or not to get vaccinated.  Pregnant women are 5.4 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID than the general population, 1.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, and 1.7 times more likely to be placed on a ventilator, according to a June 26, 2020 publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Christopher Morosky, an Assistant professor and OB-GYN at UConn Health, said he

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Connecticut College Hosts Four Actors Reading Four Short Stories

NEW LONDON — A four well-regarded actors will perform readings of four short stories by authors with roots in Germany, China, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic in a virtual performance hosted by Connecticut College next week. The actors include Kate Burton of Grey’s Anatomy, Laura Gómez of Orange Is the New Black, Russell G. Jones of Tommy, and Jennifer Lim of Jade Dragon. The program is organized in collaboration with Symphony Space, a New York-based performing arts group that curates “selected shorts” programs — short stories read live over public radio.  Rob Richter, the director of arts programming at Connecticut

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New London Keeps Positive, Draws Closer, Through Pandemic

NEW LONDON — Although restrictions are lifting and the vaccine rollout is underway, New London’s small business owners say their revenues remain far below what they saw before the pandemic began.  Rod Cornish, owner of Hot Rod Cafe on Bank Street, said he’s taken advantage of any opportunity to bring funding into the restaurant. He was able to obtain PPP grants, an SBA loan and a grant of about $1,300 from the City of New London.  “If I’m eligible, I will absolutely apply for anything,” he said. “We’re literally down 50 percent.”  Jake Johnson, owner of Jake’s Diner on State

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Stonington Prepares to Reopen Public Schools

STONINGTON — The Stonington Board of Education on Wednesday night asked Superintendent Van Riley to create a plan that would bring all grades back to in-person learning as soon as possible.  The plan comes in response to demands from parents that the schools reopen, despite teachers and paraeducators asking to remain in a hybrid model.  The key concern with returning in-person was the lack of space, which doesn’t allow students to maintain the six feet distance that the CDC recommends.  Yet according to a district-wide survey, about 60 percent of parents are asking for the district to return to in-person

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Legislature Passes $137 Million Fix for PILOT with Bipartisan Support But No Funding as of Yet

A still unfunded plan to revise and increase state reimbursements to local governments for tax-exempt property, at an estimated cost of $137 million, received significant bipartisan support from Connecticut’s first selectmen and mayors before passing 125-24 in the House and 28-7 in the Senate.  The bill also included the elimination of welfare liens and provisions against double taxation for commuters Mayor Justin Elicker of New Haven said he was grateful that first selectmen and mayors from across the state — rural communities and urban ones, small and large, Democratic and Republican — have come out in support of funding the

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Clinton Reports Better than Expected Revenues, Smooth Transition for New Town Manager

CLINTON — It’s been a year since the town hired Karl Kilduff as town manager to oversee the municipal budget, and members of the town council say that they can already see the benefits of having a professional in charge of the town’s finances. “Having him in place has had a huge impact on the town,” said Chris Aniskovich, chair of the town council.  On Nov. 19, 2019, Clinton transitioned from a board of selectmen form of governance — with a first selectman as “town CEO”— to an appointed town manager overseen by a seven-member elected town council. Aniskovich said

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Legislation and Lawsuit Take Aim At Solitary Confinement in Connecticut Prisons

Correction Officers say that they need tools like solitary confinement to maintain their control over inmates — and there are cases where Kevnesha Boyd agrees this is true — but only, she says, because the culture of the state’s Department of Correction emphasizes the use of force over rehabilitation.  Boyd, a counselor who worked in the state’s Department of Correction for four years, says the things she witnessed handling intake at New Haven Correctional Center ultimately drove her to leave her job. “It started to eat me up, because it’s just like traumatic event after traumatic event,” she said.  Boyd,

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After a Year of Protests a Debate About the Place of Police in Connecticut’s Schools

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Since last summer’s protests against police brutality, school districts in Connecticut have been debating whether to continue the use of school resource officers.  Police officers say the benefits of the position include increased school safety and opportunities to form positive relationships within the community. However, some community members and officials argue that a police presence in the schools increases juvenile arrest rates and creates a military presence within the school system.  “It doesn’t send the right message to have a police officer with a gun in school,” said Curtis Goodwin, a New London city councilman and chair of the town’s

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From East Lyme to Cambridge and Back, Ostfeld Promotes Sustainable Farming

EAST LYME — After studying geothermal and hydro energy in Iceland, palm oil in Borneo and climate change and renewable energy in Scotland, Rosemary Ostfeld, who holds a PhD in Land Economy from the University of Cambridge, decided that her next adventure would be to promote sustainable farming in her hometown. Three years ago, after returning to East Lyme, where she worked at White Gate Farm during her first summer out of college, Ostfeld launched Healthy PlanEat, a start-up connecting local farmers with consumers.  “The most powerful thing that you can do to actually have a positive impact on the

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Two Mass Clinics to Open for Vaccinations of Educators and Childcare Workers in Southeast Connecticut

Two mass vaccine clinics will soon be operating for educators and childcare providers in southeastern Connecticut, through a partnership between the local health districts, the tribal nations and the hospitals.  School district employees in the Uncas Health District will be able to receive vaccines through a clinic operated by Yale-New Haven Health at Mohegan Sun. Local residents in the Ledge Light Health District will be vaccinated at a new clinic being run at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in partnership with Hartford HealthCare.  Ledge Light Director Steve Mansfield said his organization hadn’t yet determined how they would be prioritizing districts,

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Target Dates Announced for Vaccinations; Provisions for School Employees and ‘Vulnerable Communities’

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The next phases of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine will be based on age — but with school employees and childcare workers given special priority and efforts made to reach “vulnerable communities” — according to the Office of the Governor. Gov. Ned Lamont announced today that individuals between the age of 55 and 64 could begin to register for the vaccine on March 1. People aged 45 to 54 will be able to register beginning on March 22, those aged 35 to 44 beginning on April 12, and all remaining individuals will be able to register starting on May 3. 

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Bill to Allow Medical Assistants to Perform Vaccinations Draws Mixed Response

A bill that would allow medical assistants to perform vaccinations has received a mixed response, with physicians hoping that the provision will lighten their workload and nurses questioning whether medical assistants are qualified to perform the task.  The legislature has considered the legislation a number of times over the past five years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has given the issue a new relevance, as private practices and physicians say that the demand for COVID-19 vaccinations has left them without adequate staffing to administer the shots.  Supporters of the bill include the Fairfield County Medical Association, the Community Medical Group and

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CSCU Faculty Voice Accreditation Concerns in Negotiations with Board of Regents

A number of faculty and staff working for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities have voiced concerns that the Board of Regents’ contract proposals could threaten their schools’ continuing accreditation.  Dr. Theresa Marchant-Shapiro, an associate professor of political science at Southern Connecticut State University, who is also the co-manager for the university’s New England Commission of Higher Education accreditation, warned this week that the Board of Regents had deleted many provisions that she has used as evidence of meeting the standards for accreditation. Marchant-Shapiro claims that the Board of Regents’ most recent contract proposals are at odds with the commission’s standards

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Old Saybrook Reports Healthy Finances, Growing Grand List Heading into 2022

OLD SAYBROOK — The town’s Board of Selectmen approved a $47,187,717 budget for fiscal year 2022, an increase of $167,292, or .36% over last year.  First Selectman Carl Fortuna said the town’s stable financial situation allowed Old Saybrook to project a slight decrease in the mill rate — from its current 20.05 to between 20.00 and 20.04. Last year, the mill rate increased from 19.75 to 20.05. Fortuna said this year is the second time in four years that the town has been able to lower the mill rate.  Fortuna said that in spite of the coronavirus, the town saw

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Advocates of Prison Reform Aim to Overhaul State’s Solitary Confinement

The closure of Northern Correctional Facility in Somers, which Gov. Ned Lamont officially announced earlier this month, is a victory for prison reform activists that has taken years.  But for human rights lawyer Hope Metcalf and State Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, it’s only the beginning.  As executive director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale University, Metcalf has been working with a team of lawyers to represent the nonprofit Disability Rights Connecticut in a lawsuit against the Connecticut Department of Correction alleging the “the persistent and deliberate abuse of people with mental illness

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Parties Split on Elections Legislation

The future of voting in Connecticut appears caught between two visions — Democrats who want to expand access to voting as much as possible, and Republicans who want to implement measures that would make voting more securely regulated.  State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Weston, said that since the November election, he gets a call at least once a day from a constituent asking why Connecticut doesn’t allow things like early voting or no-excuse absentee ballots.  “People really appreciated the ability to vote from the comfort and safety of their own home,” said Haskell. “Because of antiquated voting procedures, we are set

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‘Conviction Integrity Unit’ Proposed to Investigate and Overturn Wrongful Convictions

In what the administration calls an effort to strengthen public confidence in the criminal justice system, Gov. Ned Lamont has set aside funding, in his budget announced on Wednesday, to establish a specialized unit to investigate and overturn potential wrongful convictions. The Governor’s budget directs $363,382 to fund a paralegal, a prosecutor and a police inspector who would make up a “Conviction Integrity Unit” to be run out of the State’s Attorney’s Office.  The program would join 79 other units like this across the country, six of them on a state level, that have together exonerated 151 people.  Chief State’s

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Budget Proposal Relies on $440 Million in Federal Funding and Freeze to Cost Sharing Formulas

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In a move criticized by both Democratic and Republican leaders, the budget proposed on Wednesday by Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget would postpone a total of $96 million of promised funding increases to school districts over the next two years. Instead, the school districts would be expected to rely on $440 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to provide for their needs over that time. Melissa McCaw, secretary of the Office of Policy Management, said the funds originally designated for Educational Cost Sharing increases — $32 million for 2022 and $64 million for 2023 — would be directed instead toward closing a

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More than 450 Testify on a ‘Public Option’ for Health Insurance in Connecticut

More than 450 individuals and organizations submitted written testimony in a public hearing debating the merits of having a widely available state-sponsored health insurance plan — otherwise known as a public option — in Connecticut.  The proposed bill would make the health insurance plan currently reserved for state employees available to small business owners, in an effort to allow them to provide their employees with health insurance at a lower cost.   Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said that the plan would help small business owners by taking away the incentive for employees to leave for larger companies who could offer

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CSCU Administrative Budgets Out of Sync with Education Priorities Legislators Warn

A bipartisan group of legislators are calling for additional oversight of the Connecticut State College and University system out of concern that excessive administrative costs during the anticipated merger of the system’s 12 community colleges come at the expense of funding the degree programs and essential student services. Even as decreased enrollment during the COVID pandemic has ballooned into a projected $69 million budget deficit for the colleges and universities, the system’s Board of Regents has set aside an extra $10.4 million to fund 88 administrative positions for the anticipated merger into a single Connecticut State Community College.  The additional

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Connecticut’s Cities Press to Recoup Tax-Exempt Revenue

New Haven is facing a $41 million budget deficit in the coming year, said Mayor Justin Elicker, but with  sixty percent of the city’s property non-taxable, the city will be hard-pressed to balance its budget. New London Mayor Mike Passero said that even with the state’s PILOT program, his city loses about $30 million each year in tax revenue from tax-exempt property. In theory, PILOT, the state’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, should reimburse towns for 77 percent of the taxes for property occupied by nonprofit organizations, but in reality, most cities across Connecticut receive a far lower percentage

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Legislature Debates Tax Changes Aimed at Wealthy as State Plans for Life after COVID

A new legislative package carving out a fundamental change in the state’s tax structure is raising questions about where Connecticut’s budget priorities should be directed, as legislators of both parties debate budget priorities, caps and aid, as the state prepares to emerge from the pandemic. The bill proposes a number of initiatives aimed at increasing taxes on the wealthy and using that money to fund social programs and one-time payments of $500 to individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic.  Charles Du, policy director with the New England Health Care Employees Union and one of the people involved with

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Connecticut School Superintendents Budget and Hire for After the Pandemic

The academic and emotional effects of COVID on students are giving a new urgency to local school districts’ requests for increased staffing and student support. Social workers, tech support, expanded summer schooling and substitute teachers are on the list of budgeting priorities for the year 2021-22. While most of the districts said that these requests would have been made even without the virus, the fear of pandemic-driven gaps in learning and heightened mental health needs have added urgency to the requests, school officials say..   In an East Lyme Board of Education meeting on December 14, school Superintendent Jefferey Newton highlighted

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Nutmeg Pharmacy Offers Community-Minded Approach to COVID Vaccinations

At the Essex Fire Station on Saturday, the staff of Nutmeg Pharmacy in Centerbrook stood in one of the bays around a table stocked with gloves, biohazard containers and syringes. By 9 a.m, people were driving their cars through the bay so that pharmacists could administer the vaccine. By 11:45 a.m., the supply was just about exhausted.  This was the first week that the independent pharmacy was able to obtain COVID vaccines from the state. Chris Olender, pharmacy manager at the Centerbrook location, said they had held three clinics so far — one in Moodus, one in Higganum and one

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