Why Engaging Lawmakers Is Key to Our Mission
Jul 17, 2023
I’m a believer in the power of community foundations to affect change.
Every day, I see the impact of our efforts through the transformative work of the emme coalition, the Fairfield County Center for Housing Opportunity, and the hundreds of nonprofits and grassroots organizations that are striving to create a thriving, equitable region.
But I also know that we cannot fully achieve our mission and our community cannot truly flourish without the support and partnership of government. The systemic issues that affect education, income and asset building, physical and mental health, and housing are complex. And addressing these issues requires collective community investment, advocacy, and innovative thinking.
Because of this, elected officials are critical partners in moving Fairfield County Forward — and we’ve been working to strengthen and build relationships with our state and local lawmakers and executives to help them better understand our region’s challenges and offer ideas about how they can advance community equity in their roles.
Earlier this year, we hosted a coffee session with nine members of the Fairfield County state legislative delegation — the first in what we intend to be an ongoing series of meetings with our elected leaders. We also engaged a lobbying firm to monitor legislation and provide guidance to us during the 2023 CT Legislative Session.
That session is now over, and I’m pleased to report that we advocated for several successful bills that have the potential to positively impact our community. They include:
- Implementation of early voting — Connecticut’s previous voting laws made it difficult for many members of our community to have their voices heard at the ballot box. By requiring 14 days of early voting for general elections, seven days of early voting for most primaries, and four days of early voting for special elections and presidential preference primaries, more eligible voters will have an opportunity to participate in our elections.
- Certification of doulas — The Legislature approved a bill that will certify doulas. Doulas offer physical and emotional support to women as they navigate pregnancy and childbirth and provide continued support during the postpartum period. Passage of this bill is an important step in improving health outcomes in our community, particularly for women of color and their babies.
- Medicaid reimbursement for community health workers — The Legislature also approved an important measure to improve health outcomes when it passed a bill that makes it possible to provide Medicaid reimbursement for community health workers. Community health workers, who often share lived experience with their clients, partner with healthcare providers to help people get the care they need. They provide support, translation services, and culturally appropriate information to those who face barriers to navigating the healthcare system.
- Bonds for the Housing Trust Fund and Flexible Housing Program — Our delegation played a key role in setting aside $200 million over the next two years for the Housing Trust Fund and another $200 million for FLEX Housing. These investments will amplify our work in making it possible for more Fairfield County residents to have safe, stable, and affordable housing in communities of opportunity.
We are thankful for the Fairfield County legislators who showed leadership in these critical policy victories.
In addition to these wins, our lawmakers also made history by making Connecticut the first state in the nation to secure funding to establish a baby bonds program. They also increased the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers, improved tenant protections, and extended HUSKY health coverage to undocumented children. These are all key initiatives for which Fairfield County’s Community Foundation provided supportive funding. At a time in which a common refrain is that government can’t get things done, on many fronts, our legislative delegation has proved otherwise.
But while we are excited about the progress in Hartford during the 2023 Legislative Session, our lawmakers — and we — still have so much important work ahead of us.
For example, passing measures to certify doulas and provide Medicaid reimbursement for community health workers is only the critical first step in what will likely be a long process to implementing reimbursement. And while the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers will help reduce economic inequity, we still need a Child Tax Credit to strengthen working families.
We must also ensure that we communicate clearly and effectively about the new early voting measure when it takes effect in 2024. We’re already preparing for a campaign in conjunction with the Secretary of State to make eligible voters aware of the new rules — but it will take a coordinated community effort to ensure that people know when, where, and how to cast their ballots.
I invite you to partner with us as we continue to work to advance equitable policies at the local, state, and federal levels; increase civic engagement and participation; and support grassroots organizing efforts in Fairfield County.
All of us — individuals, businesses, philanthropy, and government — have a vital role to play if we are to achieve the vision of creating a Fairfield County where every person has an equitable opportunity to thrive.
We’re making progress, but even as we reflect and regroup during these summer months, the journey to make our systems function more justly for all of us must power on.
Mendi blue paca
PRESIDENT & CEO
FAIRFIELD COUNTY’S COMMUNITY FOUNDATION