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Immigrant families to receive $3.5 million in COVID relief

Hartford — Some struggling immigrant families in Connecticut without legal status will receive a share of $3.5 million in public and private money for COVID-19 relief.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced Wednesday that $2.5 million in state-funded grants to landlords will be provided on behalf of renters who are ineligible for similar aid under the federal CARES Act.

Additionally, the nonprofit philanthropic organization 4-CT plans to make $1 million — in the form of one-time debit cards in denominations of $200 or $400 — available to Connecticut families excluded from federal relief programs.

Grassroots immigrant rights groups will help identify families for the financial assistance and send them to local clinics, where medical staff will first offer COVID-19 testing before providing the debit cards. The state has prioritized the testing of densely populated urban centers to keep track of future outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Advocates estimate there are roughly 120,000 immigrants living in Connecticut without legal status, representing about 4.9% of the state's workforce. These immigrants, as well as any U.S. citizen filing taxes with a spouse who does not have legal status, and the U.S. citizen children of these parents, have been ineligible for the federal pandemic relief benefits, according to the governor's office.

“This is a population that doesn’t get any federal benefits. This is a population that pays taxes and is otherwise being left behind, despite their amazing contributions to our state and our economy,” Lamont said. “And that’s why this is important to me.”

Immigrant advocates repeatedly called Wednesday's announcement a first step, noting the need is great and workers have not had income for more than two months. There have been public calls for Lamont to create a $120 million disaster relief fund for immigrants in the country illegally.

“It is a good start, but let me just be clear, it is not enough," said Kica Matos, director of the Center for Immigration and Justice at the Vera Institute in New Haven. “The need is great and families are desperate."

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or lead to death.

As of Wednesday, there have been more than 43,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,989 associated deaths in Connecticut, an increase of 17 since Tuesday. More than 400 people are hospitalized, a decline of 28 since Tuesday.

New London County had seen 1,039 confirmed cases of COVID-19 overall as of Wednesday evening, four more than the previous day, and 61 probable cases, up by two from Tuesday; 67 associated deaths had been confirmed, an increase of one, and 25 others were suspected of being related.

Eight people in the county were hospitalized with the disease, one fewer than the day before. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital was treating six of them, while Backus was treating two. Westerly Hospital said it had no COVID-19 patients.

In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:

Indoor restaurants

The Connecticut Restaurant Association has sent a letter to Lamont, signed by the operators of more than 550 restaurants, seeking to reopen indoor dining on June 10 instead of June 20. They're arguing that restaurants have already proven they can operate safely.

“Just about every restaurant in the state is teetering on the edge of financial hardship, and we need to do everything possible to keep them afloat," said Scott Dolch, the association's executive director in a written statement.

Lamont noted Wednesday that Connecticut was one of the first states to allow outdoor dining, but said he's “going to be a little cautious" regarding indoor dining.

Public schools

Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said a reopening plan for schools this fall could be ready within the next couple weeks. Cardona said ideas such as continued distance learning for older students, staggered start times and alternating weeks for in-person classes are being considered.

Meanwhile, schools across the state have been coming up with unique ways to honor their graduating students at a safe social distance, such as a “car graduation” planned for Farmington High School students. Lamont has already agreed to allow up to 50 people gather for outdoor activities beginning on June 20. He said Wednesday he will allow up to 150 people to attend outdoor graduations beginning July 6.

Telehealth insurance coverage

Connecticut lawmakers plan to hold a virtual informational hearing on Thursday to discuss issues related to insurance coverage for telehealth services during the pandemic. The General Assembly's Insurance and Real Estate Committee has invited three panels of experts, including the state's insurance commissioner, representatives from the insurance industry and representatives from the medical community, to testify. It will be live-streamed, beginning at 11:30 a.m., on CT-N.

Crisis counseling

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved a $669,404 grant to the state of Connecticut to provide crisis counseling to people impacted by COVID-19, including those experiencing homelessness, staff at shelters and senior citizens in congregate care facilities and in the community. Some of the money will be used to develop a statewide advertising and media campaign.





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