Connecticut lawmakers answered the questions of University of Connecticut students as the USG’s “Conversation with CT Lawmakers” event made the transition to its online format.
Several lawmakers spoke about their continued focus on representing their communities despite changes due to COVID-19. In particular, Will Haskell, 26th District state senator, said he and his colleagues discuss daily how they can best support their districts.
“While the legislature is not in session, my colleagues and I continue to hold daily conference calls discussing the situation and developing the best strategies to support our Senate districts,” Haskell said. “I’m still communicating with my constituents every day and working to help them with whatever issues they are facing.”
When asked about environmental regulations that are currently being rolled back while battling COVID-19, lawmakers stressed that the progress made would not be lost. Sean Scanlon, 98th District representative, hopes that people will recognize the importance of caring for the environment around us.
“If there is a silver lining in all of this, I think people will hopefully have more appreciation for the fact that there is a direct correlation between the health of our environment and the health of us as humans, and we need to start respecting that more,” Scanlon said.
Students inquired about the discussion on the flexibility of rent and mortgage payments, stressing the importance of this for college students. Jahana Hayes, 5th District congresswoman, pointed to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as a potential economic relief for college and university students.
“The CARES Act, which Congress passed on March 27, 2020, will specifically provide CT-05 colleges and universities with $42,190,987 in emergency funding. In particular, the University of Connecticut will receive $21,500,845,” Hayes said. “At least half of this funding will be distributed to displaced students to pay bills related to housing, utilities and other educational expenses.”
Lawmakers also addressed student concerns for the increased risks of COVID-19 that prisoners face in correctional facilities. Hayes spoke of her actions to combat spread in correctional facilities, but she feels that not enough is being done.
“On April 4, Attorney General William Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons to increase the use of home confinement and expedite the release of eligible high-risk inmates at three federal prisons where coronavirus cases have skyrocketed, such as FCI Danbury,” Hayes said. “This is a good first step to combat and contain the virus in our prison system, but I remain concerned about the health and wellness of the individuals in staff who remain in these high-risk areas.”
Students also had similar worries about the living conditions of the homeless population of Connecticut. Gregory Haddad, 54th District representative, spoke about the work done by him and his fellow lawmakers to address this issue.
“Homeless populations can continue to use shelters and no-freeze shelters, although those shelters are using modified guidelines that require lower densities in their facilities … The state has identified additional housing opportunities for people who are experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity at motels across Connecticut,” Haddad said.
Those interested in reading USG’s full piece can find it on External Affair’s Medium page.
Thomas Alvarez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.