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Voices Speaking

July 8, 2019

Connecticut Voices Hires Emily Byrne as Executive Director

Emily ByrneFollowing an extensive search, Connecticut Voices for Children is pleased to announce that we have chosen a new Executive Director with wide-ranging experience and a record of leadership in government and nonprofit organizations. Emily Byrne has begun her work as leader of the organization this week.

“Emily brings a wealth of management experience and a lifelong commitment to improving opportunities for Connecticut’s children and families. With Emily at the helm, I am confident that Connecticut Voices will continue to build on its successes and its reputation for effective, research-based advocacy,” said David Nee, Chairperson of Connecticut Voices’ Board of Directors.

Byrne, a long-time Connecticut resident, has extensive experience in developing education, housing, economic development and anti-poverty policies and programs. She has organized and led advocacy campaigns on local, state and federal legislation affecting children and families. A public servant by training, she started her career as a policy analyst for the City of New Haven, where she helped design the nation’s first municipal identification card for all residents, regardless of their immigration status. Since then she has held various governmental leadership positions at the state and local levels, including roles as Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Connecticut State Department of Education and Director of Strategy and Innovation at the New Haven Housing Authority. Most notably, she was the founding Executive Director of New Haven Promise.

“Connecticut Voices for Children has been a provenance of progressive policies, rooted in research, that support the state’s most vulnerable children and families for nearly twenty-five years. Together—with communities and partners—we endeavor to build upon past efforts in service of equitable, inclusive change and justice,” said Byrne. “I am honored and humbled to lead the organization into the next quarter century of its work so that all children in Connecticut have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
June 17, 2019

Proposed changes to poverty measure would be less accurate and cut benefits

The Trump Administration is proposing to change how the Census Bureau’s official poverty measure is adjusted annually for inflation.The proposed changes would gradually decrease the poverty line over time, even though inflation has risen faster for low-income households than for households overall.

This is particularly troublesome in a state like Connecticut that has a high cost of living. Here, the federal poverty line is already far below what is needed to raise a family. The United Way’s ALICE report for 2018 noted that a survival budget for a family of four (two adults and two young children) would require $77,832 per year. This basic survival budget is more than three times the 2018 federal poverty limit of $25,100 for a family of four. Yet, 40 percent of families in the state earn less. A more accurate measure would increase the threshold, rather than aligning it with indices that will result in steady decreases.

In addition, evidence suggests that inflation has been rising more sharply for the goods and services purchased by low-income households. For example, low-income people spend a larger than average share of their budgets on housing, and the price of rent rose 31 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the traditional Consumer Price Index (17 percent). The Trump Administration’s proposal would further lower inflation adjustments for the poverty line, making the official poverty measure even more inaccurate.

What would this mean?

Over time, the poverty income limit would gradually decrease. People just below the poverty limit one year would not be the next and so on. As years pass, fewer and fewer families will be eligible for health insurance through the HUSKY Health (Medicaid and CHIP) programs and for food assistance and other supports. Nationwide, by the 10th year of this change, an estimated 300,000 children would lose coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, nearly 200,000 people would lose SNAP benefits, and more than 100,000 school-age children would lose eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals. (Read more about the impact on health programs and problems with the proposed measure.)

What can we do?

  1. Submit your comments to the Trump Administration opposing this change by Friday, June 21. Our comments are here, in case you would like to use them as a template. Please note that:
    1. The proposal asks that comments not analyze impact on programs. So, we have focused on why this change in methodology would be less accurate.
    2. It is helpful to personalize your comments as much as possible so that they are not dismissed as a simple re-posting.
  2. Let Senator Murphy, Senator Blumenthal, and your U.S. House Representative know why you are opposed to this measure.

 

Issue Areas:
Family Economic Security, Health
May 29, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: State budget under negotiation

State Budget

Last week, 63 state legislators – including a majority of House Democrats – signed a letter to Governor Lamont encouraging him to approve a budget that asks those who can best afford it to pay more in taxes. The letter called for a two percent surcharge on capital gains for couples earning over $1 million in annual income and individuals earning more than $500,000. As we discussed in our blog, capital gains fact sheet, and revenue proposal report, a capital gains tax could help to close the budget deficit and to fix Connecticut’s upside-down tax system, in which the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than middle- and low-income residents. 

Later news reports indicated that a tentative budget framework that is being negotiated between the Governor and legislative leaders does not include this capital gains tax, though it does include a “mansion tax” on expensive homes, a sales tax increase on some luxury items, and higher taxes on pass-through entity businesses. Unfortunately, these measures would only generate about one-quarter of the revenues that a capital gains tax would produce.

A negotiated budget proposal may be released this week, and a vote is expected by Wednesday, June 5, when the legislative session ends. Please take a moment today to ask both the Governor and your state legislators to fix the state budget deficit and help pay for vital services for children and families by asking the wealthy to pay more!

 

Legislative Update

As the end of the legislative session approaches on Wednesday, June 5, be sure to contact your legislators and the Governor on issues of concern to you. These are some highlights of recent legislative activity affecting children and families:

Minimum wage. A bill increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 was signed by Governor Lamont this week! Thank you to everyone who supported this effort to give Connecticut families a raise.

Paid family leave. A bill implementing paid family leave (Senate Bill 1) was approved last week by the Connecticut Senate. However, the Governor has indicated that he would veto this bill over concerns about how the program would be administered. The bill awaits a House vote or a negotiated agreement with the Governor.

Community health worker and doula certification. Last week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 859, An Act Concerning Community Health Workers, which would establish a community health worker certification process as a step towards health equity in Connecticut. Community health workers can help to address barriers to health care and unmet needs. The bill awaits a House vote. In addition, a bill that would establish a workgroup concerning the core competencies for doulas to be licensed or certified to practice (Senate Bill 1078) still awaits a vote in the House, following Senate approval earlier this month.

Child welfare oversight. Last week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 452, which would establish a State Oversight Council on Children and Families. The Council provides a structure for various stakeholders to support the needs of children and families who are involved with the child welfare system or at risk of entering the foster care system. The Council could help the state to maintain and build upon important gains made under the Juan F. Consent Decree, even after we have exited from federal oversight. The bill awaits a vote in the House.

Inclusion of Black and Latino studies in the public school curriculum. The House approved legislation (House Bill 7082) that would add Black and Latino studies to the required programs of study for public schools and require boards of education to include an elective course about these topics in their high school curriculum beginning with the 2022-23 school year. The bill has been sent to the Senate for a vote.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date!

 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Family Economic Security, Health
May 21, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: State budget, minimum wage, early childhood day at the Capitol

Legislative Update

There are only two weeks left before the state legislative session ends on June 5, and policymakers are making critical decisions now about funding priorities for children and families and on the revenues to support them. Here are a few updates on recent developments.

State budget: action needed. Smart state fiscal policies can play a critical role in building a strong, equitable state economy. It is time we fix our tax laws to give working people and children a fair shot to get ahead by pursuing the twin goals of assuring adequate revenues to support the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families, and enhancing the fairness of our tax system.

Please take a moment today to ask both the Governor and your state legislators to fix the state budget deficit and help pay for vital services for children and families by asking the wealthy to pay more!

Finance Committee proposal. The General Assembly’s Finance Committee has published an “implementer bill” that lays out the details of its revenue proposals. It includes a highly progressive, two percent surcharge on capital gains realized by taxpayers in the highest income tax bracket and non-residents with gains derived from Connecticut sources.

This bill also recommends that the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services produce a report by January 2020 on the potential impact of implementing a new payroll tax in Connecticut. This is a complex proposal that would largely replace our state personal income tax. There are many unanswered questions about its implementation; the impact on low-income families; and other important, unforeseen consequences.

For more information on revenue options that would provide more adequate funding for child and family services while improving fairness in our tax system, see our recent report and a presentation by Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Voices.

Minimum wage. Connecticut families will soon get a raise! Legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 over the next four years was approved by the House and Senate, and Governor Lamont has indicated that he will sign the bill.

Doula certification. Legislation that would establish a workgroup concerning the core competencies for doulas to be licensed or certified to practice was approved unanimously by the Senate and awaits a vote in the House. The working group would be charged with evaluating public health and safety risks and benefits associated with doulas, and the minimum requirements needed for licensure or certification as a doula. Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support before, during and after the birth; they do not provide medical care. Evidence suggests that doula support is likely to reduce the dramatic racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date!


Early Childhood Day at the Capitol

Join us at the 2019 Day at the Capitol on Thursday morning to learn about the early childhood proposals before the state legislature. The event, sponsored by the Connecticut After School Network and the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, will take place on May 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. in Room 310 at the State Capitol. After the event, you are encouraged to meet with your legislators for some hands-on advocacy.  Participants are encouraged to wear yellow.

Please RSVP here.

Learn more

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Family Economic Security, Health
May 10, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Countdown to the End of the Session

 

Legislative Update: Countdown to the End of the Session

There are fewer than four weeks left in the state legislative session, and this is a key time to contact your legislators about your priorities for children and families.

Raise your voice for fair and adequate state revenues

Connecticut has the opportunity this year to make significant progress toward improved access to high-quality early care and health care, as well as protecting the rights of youth in foster care and restoring funds for juvenile justice services. But without adequate revenues to close a recently estimated $3 billion budget gap over the next two years, more painful cuts that could fall most heavily on children and low-income families are all too likely.

Connecticut also needs to fix our upside down tax system, in which the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than low- and middle-income people to fund the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families. As we discussed in our recent summary, the revenue proposal by the General Assembly’s Finance Committee takes some positive steps in this direction by raising revenues through a surcharge on capital gains for high-income residents and by closing some corporate tax loopholes. However, the Committee’s proposal falls $340 million short of the revenues proposed by Governor Lamont for the next two years.

Another revenue proposal under discussion by legislators and advocates is a higher personal income tax rate for residents in the highest tax brackets. The state legislative session ends in less than one month on June 5, so the final shape of the state revenue and spending plans will be negotiated soon.

Please take a moment today to send a message to your legislators and the Governor, asking them to raise taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers, who currently pay less than their fair share!

Legislative budget plan avoids major cuts, but investments limited by budget rules

While the budget bill passed by the Appropriations Committee protects many programs that serve children and families from budget cuts, rigid and counterproductive budget rules are starving schools, infrastructure, and health systems of the spending needed to support critical investments.

As we explored in our latest report, the Appropriations Committee’s spending plan includes funding for some of our key priorities, including the preservation of coverage for parents of children in the HUSKY health insurance program, start-up costs for a public option to expand health insurance coverage, and restored funding for juvenile justice services. However, implementing these measures depends on raising adequate revenues. And our capacity to make the bolder investments we need in children and families continues to be limited by budget rules like the Bond Lock and the volatility, revenue, and spending caps.

Minimum wage hike approved by the House

Legislation to increase the minimum wage in Connecticut to $15 over the next four years was approved by the Connecticut House on Thursday! The bill includes a provision for a lower “training wage” for 16 and 17 year-olds for the first 90 days of their employment. The bill now moves to the Senate, where a vote may be scheduled soon.

Paid family and medical leave bill awaits floor vote

Recently, advocates have been pressing legislators to ensure that the paid family and medical leave bill ensures that all workers have access to paid leave, regardless of the size of their employer. They are also advocating for a definition of family that includes chosen family, which can be important to ensure that children in non-traditional families can still receive the care they need. The bill may get a floor vote in the Senate soon.

National partners join Voices in support of capital gains surcharge

Staff experts from our national partners – Elizabeth McNichol of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Aidan Davis of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy – joined Jamie Mills of Connecticut Voices for Children in submitting powerful testimony before the Finance Committee in support of a modest surcharge on capital gains earned by our wealthiest residents.

 

Teach-In on the State Budget

Join us at a teach-in on state budget solutions on Tuesday, where Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Connecticut Voices for Children, will discuss how Connecticut’s regressive tax system contributes to growing inequality and how the state’s rigid budget rules exacerbate budget problems. She’ll also explore revenue solutions that can enable us to fund vital priorities for children and families.

The teach-in, sponsored by the DUE Justice Coalition, will take place on Tuesday, May 14 at 10 a.m. in Room 1B at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Please spread the word and share the event flyer. We’ll see you there!

 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
April 2, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Make your voice heard, successes & federal updates

Make Your Voice Heard in the State Budget Process

In February, Governor Lamont released his budget proposal, beginning the process of creating a state budget for the next two fiscal years. While Connecticut faces large, projected budget deficits, the Governor avoided large cuts to most programs affecting children and families by proposing new revenues to close the deficit. The Appropriations and Finance Committees held public hearings on the Governor’s proposals and will be offering their proposals for spending and revenues.

The subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee will soon make their recommendations for their respective portions of the budget. The deadline for the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to make their proposal for state revenues is Thursday, May 2. The Appropriations Committee deadline is on the next day, May 3. If the Finance Committee does not propose raising enough revenues to close the budget deficit and avoid cuts, then the Appropriations Committee may make new, painful cuts that were not in the Governor’s proposal. Alternately, the Appropriations Committee may pass a budget that spares these cuts, but leaves the budget out of balance, without enough revenues to support their spending proposal.

To protect children and families, Connecticut must take a balanced approach to the state budget deficit that includes new revenues. Please:

  • Contact members of the subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee that have oversight of programs of concern to you. Explain why these programs are important to children and families, and who receives them.
  • Contact members of the Finance Committee and let them know that you support increasing revenues to balance the budget and protect children and families.

Recent Legislative Successes

Thanks to support from you and other advocates, these important state legislative proposals have moved forward in the General Assembly:

Protecting youth in foster care. House Bill 6403, An Act Concerning a Children in Care Bill of Rights and Expectations and the Sibling Bill of Rights, was approved unanimously by the Committee on Children and awaits a vote in the House. This bill addresses issues raised by youth in foster care in our Youth at the Capitol Day research report and forum. These youth expressed concerns that they feel disconnected from their schools and communities, valued the freedom to express their own identities, and need support in exploring their identities. For more information, see our fact sheet on this bill.

Improving health equity through community health workers. The Public Health Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 859, An Act Concerning Community Health Workers, which would establish a community health worker certification process as a step towards health equity in Connecticut. Community health workers can help to address barriers to health care and unmet needs. For more information, see our testimony on this bill.

You can find additional recent testimony on our website.

 

Federal Updates on Health and Nutrition Assistance

Affordable Care Act. As you may have read, the Department of Justice has endorsed a 2018 court ruling stating that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. While Connecticut has taken steps to codify some provisions of the ACA at the state level, there are wide-reaching implications for Medicaid and the rules governing health insurance, should the entire ACA ultimately be struck down. Connecticut’s Attorney General joined 21 states in filing a brief to defend the ACA.

Medicaid work requirements. On March 27, a federal judge struck down the Department of Health and Human Services’ approval of work requirements for Medicaid in Kentucky and Arkansas. A number of other states have received approval to begin imposing work requirements or have submitted waiver applications with the aim of doing so. The vast majority of Medicaid enrollees already work or would be exempt due to a disability or caregiving responsibilities. However, as the early evidence from Arkansas shows, clearing the hurdle of reporting these factors is extremely difficult for many. This ruling is likely to be appealed and may eventually be heard by the Supreme Court. Work requirements have been proposed in Connecticut, but the idea has not received the support necessary to become law.  We have testified in opposition to such rules that make access to basic medical care for low-income families more difficult.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As noted in our blog, Congress passed funding for SNAP in late 2018 without imposing the additional rules and restrictions proposed by the House of Representatives. However, these restrictions are now being proposed through regulations. Connecticut Voices submitted comments opposing this effort to reduce nutritional assistance to people who live in areas with high rates of unemployment. Comments are due by April 2 and can be submitted here.

Our Recent Publications

If you missed them, be sure to check out our recent fact sheets and reports:

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Health

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