Connecticut Commission on Children: An Agency of the Connecticut General Assembly
The Connecticut Commission on Children
dancing kids logo General Assembly logo 18-20 Trinity Street
Hartford, Connecticut 06106-1591

Phone: (860) 240-0290  | Fax: (860) 240-0248 | E-mail

The suburbanization of poverty and help for struggling families

The Great Recession has changed the face of poverty in Connecticut. Middle-class families who used to visit food pantries to drop off donations now visit in hopes of feeding their own children. People who once supported the nonprofit agencies which provide heat and housing assistance now turn to those agencies for help themselves. Some have been laid off; some cling to employment at considerably reduced hours or wages. You'd be surprised how many of them are your neighbors and friends.

Legislation to help families as the economy recovers is being implemented today.

Public Act 10-133, An Act Concerning Children in the Recession, was adopted by the General Assembly after House Speaker Christopher J. Donovan's Task Force on Children in the Recession held public hearings around the state to find ways of helping families deal with the impact of the recession. Section 10 of the law calls for the Commission on Children to explore the possibility of creating an emergency fund for families facing short-term crises. This would be a time-limited, fully-accountable, case-management-accessed fund that would be active only if the Connecticut's unemployment rate rises above 8 percent.

"I come from a middle-class family . We bought a house before the recession started, and both of my parents had jobs. My mom lost her job almost three months ago ... Now my main concern - instead of school and extracurricular activities and finding ways to get scholarships to go to college - is finding a job. I've applied for jobs, but there aren't any for students after school . I'm worried that one day I'll come home and my dad won't have a job either. It's just difficult, because high school students shouldn't have to deal with supporting their families."

—Glastonbury High School junior Kara Googins, testifying before the Speaker's Task Force on Children in the Recession.

Beginning in August 2010, and continuing through spring 2011, the Connecticut Commission on Children and the Liberty Bank Foundation held a series of meetings with human-service agencies, housing providers, and other community stakeholders to discuss the impact of the recession on families and children and how an emergency fund might be structured.

The key findings of this group were: first, that the state needs to improve the way it delivers services to families qualified for assistance; second, that an emergency fund for families facing short-term crisis would be a vital resource during times of recession, especially to families that do not qualify for other types of assistance. This fund could supply one-time grants of approximately $200 to $1,500 dollars to pay expenses such as rent, fuel, food, medicine, car repairs, or other needs that threaten a family's economic stability.

United Way 211 provided data showing that over 24,000 callers who phoned 211 for various types of assistance in the past year did not qualify for any assistance. For many families, their need is due to one-time event, and a small grant between $200-$1,500 can avert a more profound crisis. This fund could help the meet the needs of such callers.

Having outlined how the fund would function, we turned to the issue of actually creating the fund. We needed a partner who could assist with marketing and fundraising. Liberty Bank approached its advertising agency, Cronin & Co. of Glastonbury, to fill this role. Cronin has graciously agreed to serve in this role on a pro bono basis, developing a comprehensive marketing and communications campaign to support our efforts. As one of the state's leading advertising agencies, Cronin will undoubtedly be a key contributor to the success of the fund.

The anticipated launch of this public-private collaborative effort to help Connecticut's families is winter 2012.

This page was last updated: November 3, 2011

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