The largest child care expansion in state history, summer learning camps for nearly 100,000 students, huge investments in worker training and business growth, and a continued focus on COVID-19 vaccinations topped the list of initiatives Gov. Ned Lamont outlined Friday for the latest round of federal pandemic relief.
Lamont, who must show the legislature on Monday how he wants Connecticut to spend more than $6 billion arriving via the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, said the goal is nothing less than a dramatic transformation of the state over the next three years.
“We wanted to make sure it’s not just money, but it’s investments that make a difference in people’s lives, especially those that were hardest hit by this pandemic … and investments that allow our state to move forward with growth and opportunity for all,” Lamont said during a late-morning press conference at Naugatuck Community College.
Connecticut’s share of the $1.9 trillion relief act includes:
- $2.6 billion directly for state government;
- $1.6 billion for municipal and regional groups;
- $1.1 billion for education — with most earmarked for local school districts;
- $370 million for higher education;
- $330 million for rental, hearing and energy assistance;
- $300 million for child care services;
- $140 million for capital projects.
Much of the funding will be focused on Connecticut’s youth, Lamont said, including “the biggest expansion of child care this state has ever known.”
Beth Bye, commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood Development, said that will include $120 million to help stabilize a child care industry badly damaged by the pandemic, $50 million to provide child care for women in workforce development programs, and another $26 million in child care subsidies to help make services more affordable for low-income households.
The administration also is planning six weeks of summer learning camps for up to 100,000 students to assist with their development.
Acting Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker added the administration wants to use the new pandemic relief to complement this effort with learning camp scholarships, more support for youth employment and internship programs, and reduced-price admission for museums and cultural centers.
Economic Development Commissioner David Lehman announced more than $100 million for additional workforce development, $50 million in loans and grants for small businesses — with half dedicated to companies owned by women, minorities, the disabled or veterans.
And though full details weren’t available, Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the departments of Public Health and Social Services, said there will be a strong focus on maintaining the current battle against the coronavirus and promoting wellness in the future.
The administration’s plan not only will support the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine rollout but also would make investments in local departments of health and help the state health department launch a division on health equity.