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Connecticut’s Unemployment Rate Dips


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

Connecticut’s unemployment rate dipped slightly in August, according to the state Department of Labor’s report released on Thursday.

Employers added 1,100 jobs in August, helping its unemployment rate drop from 4.4 percent to 4.3 percent, according to the report. This is the fourth straight monthly gain in jobs.

Last year,  the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate in August was 3.9 percent, down from 4.4 percent in the previous year. Connecticut has the highest unemployment rate in New England, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. New Hampshire has the lowest rate of 2.7 percent.

Connecticut has now recovered 86 percent (105,400 jobs) of the 119,100 seasonally adjusted jobs lost in the “Great Recession.”

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Report: More Connecticut Residents Are Struggling to Make Ends Meet


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — About 40 percent of Connecticut households are struggling to make ends meet.

That’s according to the Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) report by Connecticut United Way.

Of Connecticut’s 1,357,269 households, 10 percent lived in poverty in 2016. And another 30 percent were above the poverty threshold but struggling financially.

That 30 percent is known as ALICE.  ALICE population consists of households with income above the federal poverty level but below the basic cost of living. ALICE are, therefore, people making too much money to qualify for federal assistance but not enough money to meet basic needs such as housing, transportation, food, childcare and health care.

Combined, 40 percent , or 538,529 households, had income below the cost of living in Connecticut.

This information comes at a time when the unemployment rate has declined and others boast of booming economic times.

“At a time when we’re hearing good economic news, it’s surprising to see the working poor is increasing,” said Stephanie Hoops, lead researcher and director of the ALICE Project. “The economic prosperity is not reaching all households yet.”

The cost of basic household expenses increased steadily in Connecticut to $77,832 for a family of four (two adults with one infant and one preschooler) and $24,672 for a single adult.

In Connecticut, 45 percent of jobs paid less than $20 per hour in 2016. At the same time, many ALICE workers are still struggling possible because of an increase in contract jobs and on-demand jobs that created less stability. And gaps in wages persist.

Moreover, ALICE families are not just concentrated in Connecticut’s cities.

“ALICE families live in every town and every city in the state,” said President and CEO of Connecticut United Way Richard Porth.

In each Connecticut town at least 10 percent of families are ALICE households. And about half of families do not have enough savings to cover living expenses if they have unexpected expenses such as illness or a major car repair.

 

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Center to Provide Mental Health Training


WEST HARTFORD — The Mandell Jewish Community Center will be offering youth mental health first aid training. Thanks to a grant from the Cigna Foundation.

The evidence-based Mental Health First Aid program will teach individuals how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders, officials said. The training will provide adults who regularly interact with young people, ages 12-18, “the knowledge and confidence needed to recognize crucial warning signs and symptoms of mental illness and the skills necessary to provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem.”

“While the Mandell JCC is known for its fitness, we recognize the important role mental health plays in overall wellbeing.  We also recognize that the conversation about mental health can be a sensitive discussion. There can be fear and stigma related to starting a conversation about mental health, but by teaching people how to identify, understand and respond to a mental health situation, we can help end the shame that keep so many from seeking the help they need,” said David Jacobs, Executive Director of the Mandell JCC.

“At Cigna, we believe that mental health is just as important as physical health, and teaching people how to respond to a mental health crisis is just as important as training people in CPR,” said Wendy Sherry, president of Cigna Healthcare of Connecticut, Inc. “We are proud to collaborate with the Mandell JCC to bring this important, groundbreaking training to the Greater Hartford community.”

The JCC expects to train 350 Youth Mental Health First Aiders over the next year. Youth Mental Health First Aiders are adults who regularly interact with young people, ages 12-18, including; teachers, parents, family members, caregivers, neighbors, health & human service workers, school staff, community organizations, peers, clergy, police officers, firefighters, first responders, coaches, camp counselors, pediatricians and municipal professionals. To date, more than one million people across the United States have been trained in Mental Health First Aid.

The courses offered by the JCC will be taught by certified Mental Health First Aid instructors, Rebecca Ewald Krusinski and Johanna Peck.

Ms. Krusinski is a licensed clinical social worker with over 15 years in the mental health field. Ms. Peck has over 15 years of marketing experience in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Connecticut, She is well-versed in human resources and staff management situations. Her own personal life experiences led her to become a certified instructor in Mental Health First Aid.

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CT Tax Free Week to Begin Aug. 19


HARTFORD — The state’s annual sales tax free week is slated for Aug. 19 through Aug. 25, a time when residents can save on back to school shopping.

Sales Tax Free Week allows retail purchases of most clothing and footwear items priced under $100 exempt from tax.

Connecticut shoppers are expected to save big.

“Sales Tax Free Week has become an anticipated tradition in Connecticut, offering savings on a variety of clothing and footwear purchases at a time of year when families do their back-to-school shopping,” said Connecticut Department of Revenue Services (DRS) Commissioner Scott Jackson. “Sales Tax Free Week is a great platform to promote Connecticut’s retail sector, and an opportunity for shoppers to take advantage of savings and incentives.”

Connecticut retailers traditionally offer additional clothing and footwear discounts during sales tax free week. Tax is calculated on the final sales price of an item, after all reductions and coupons are applied. Items that cost $100 or more are subject to sales and use tax for the entire price of that item.

For more information, visit the DRS home page at http://www.ct.gov/DRS (look for CT Sales Tax Free Week button).

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CRT to Offer Financial Literacy Class


HARTFORD — Greater Hartford residents looking to brush up on financial literacy can do so in Hartford.

Thanks to the Community Renewal Team, which is currently accepting applications for its 8th annual Financial Literacy Institute.

Beginning Sept. 11, the free, 14-week program for adults will be offered at CRT’s main office at 555 Windsor St. in Hartford.

The deadline to apply is July 31.

The class will provide participants with an in-depth and engaging way to educate themselves and their family members about a wide range of financial matters, including household budgeting and managing cash flow; saving and investing; credit and credit rebuilding; various types of insurance; the psychology of money, financial goal setting and more.

“Our financial literacy mantra is: ‘Make your money work for you!’ This mindset, embraced and practiced, can lead you and your family on a journey to a more secure financial future. All you need to do is to take that first step with us,” said Eileen Feliciano, CRT’s Financial Literacy Coordinator.

Individuals that are interested in participating in this free educational program are encouraged to apply online:
http://www.crtct.org/en/financial-literacy-institute-enrollment-application.

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Greater Hartford Groups to Hold Teach-In


HARTFORD —  The Charter Oak Cultural Center and the Jewish community will hold a “community teach-in” on July 23 in wake of the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S. border.

The event entitled “Community Teach-In: Responding to the Trauma of Children at Our Borders” will begin at 6:30 p.m. at B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom, 180 Still Road in Bloomfield.

The program will feature mental health experts, educations, students and child survivors.

Participants will gather “to learn more and to consider what we can do to curtail these heartless policies,” said Rabbi Debra Cantor, an organizer of the free event.

Participants will also learn about the impact and long-term ramifications of such abuse.

The event is sponsored by many community organizations, including: B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom/Neshama Center for Lifelong Learning; Charter Oak Cultural Center; Farmington Valley League of Light; Hartford Family Institute; Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford; Mandell JCC of Greater Hartford; Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford; University of Connecticut Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Life; CT Immigrant and Refugee Coalition; Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at UCONN; Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, University of Hartford; Beth El Temple; Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, Trinity College; Christian Activities Council, Hartford; American Muslim Peace Initiative; Anti-Defamation League, CT; University of CT, Hartford.

For more information, contact Rabbi Donna Berman at (860) 573-7007 or donna.berman@charteroakcenter.org  Rabbi Debra Cantor at (860)463-0986 or cantordebra@gmail.com

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CREC to Offer Free Summer Meals


HARTFORD — Capitol Region Education Council will help provide free meals to children 18 and under this summer.

Breakfast and lunch will be offered at CREC locations in Hartford, East Hartford and West Hartford.

Breakfast will be served from 8:40 a.m. to 9 a.m. and lunch will be served 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at Greater Hartford Academy of Arts High School at 160 Huyshope Ave.
Meals will be served daily through Aug. 4 except for July 4.

Those interested in receiving more information should contact CREC at 111 Charter Oak Ave. Hartford or call 860-509-3774.

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Hartford Jazz Society to Hold Contest


HARTFORD — The Hartford Jazz Society will present its second Emerging Jazz Artists Showcase this summer in Hartford.

The winner will receive a cash prize and an opportunity to perform at the Hartford Jazz Society 57th Annual Jazz Cruise. Applications must be submitted by June 16.

The Hartford Jazz Society will accept submissions from musicians who have never been signed to a recording contract and who have not released any widely distributed recordings as a leader. Applicants must be 18 to qualify. The Hartford Jazz Society reserves the right to not accept any submissions that it determines do not to meet minimum standards for the competition.

During June and July, the Hartford Jazz Society will feature up to four videos on its website and invite the jazz audience to vote on its favorite solo artist each week. Four finalists will be selected and invited to perform one song as a soloist during the intermission at the 2018 Paul Brown Monday Night Jazz series July 9 through Aug. 13.

For more information on how to apply, go to the website www.hartfordjazzsoceity.com/artistshowcase.

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LimeBike Launches in Hartford


HARTFORD — LimeBike, a bike share program based in California, is now in Hartford.

The company launched its pilot program in the capital city on Wednesday.

Lime provides affordable, dock-free pedal bikes to cities and college campuses across the United States. And Lime is coming to Hartford at no cost to the city, officials said.

“Bringing this bikeshare pilot program to Hartford is part of our overall effort to make Hartford a more accessible, bike-friendly city – and also a greener, more sustainable city,” said Mayor Luke Bronin.  “LikeBikes will make it easy to get around Hartford quickly and conveniently, and I’m excited for Lime’s launch here in Hartford.”

Lime will be placing 300 of their bicycles throughout Hartford on Wednesday and Thursday, initially stationing them at hot spots they’ve identified across the city. Residents can download the Lime app, pick up a bike, ride at a rate of $1 for every 30 minutes, and lock and leave the bike anywhere for someone else to pick up.

All LimeBikes are GPS and 3-G enabled, allowing riders to find nearby bikes using the app.  Watch a tutorial here.

“Lime will dramatically increase Hartford’s access to affordable, sustainable mobility,” said Darrin Rees, Lime’s Hartford Operations Manager. “As a Hartford resident for nearly 22 years, I have seen a lot of changes to the City over time, but I am extremely excited about this change that will have such a positive impact on the community. I look forward to continuing our work with the City and the local Lime team to ensure a successful and equitable program.”

The Lime Access program, which includes a text-to-unlock feature and discounted rates, is available for residents without smartphones and who are enrolled in a state or federal assistance programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Lime Access members can purchase 100, 30-minute rides for just $5.

Hartford has been named a Bike-Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists

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Connecticut Advocates Blast DeVos For Saying Schools Can Welcome ICE


Immigration advocates in the state and the Connecticut office of the ACLU blasted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for saying that a school can chose to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on students believed to be undocumented.

“Children should be able to trust and learn from their teachers, not face the prospect of educators becoming deputized informants for ICE,” said David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “Any Connecticut school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution and contribute to fear and disruption in the classroom and wider community.”

During a U.S. House of Representatives education committee hearing on Tuesday, DeVos said whether a school reports a student to ICE is “a school decision, it’s a local community decision.”

“I refer to the fact that we have laws and we also are compassionate,” DeVos said. “I urge this body to do its job and address and clarify where there is confusion around this.”

DeVos’ statements caused a furor among advocacy groups, who pointed out that under the Supreme Court case Plyler v Doe, all children — undocumented or not –are entitled to a free public education.

Last year, Gov. Dannel Malloy sent the state’s school superintendents a letter urging them to protect their students from ICE officials.

“We encourage you having a plan in place in the event that an ICE agent comes to your school requesting information about or access to a student,” the governor said. “In developing a plan for your district, you should consult with your district’s attorney.”

Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) also has a protocol for interacting with ICE.

Lucas Codognolla, an immigrant advocate and director of CT Students for a Dream, a group of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by their parents, said DeVos’ statement “is a message meant to produce fear in our communities.”

“No student should feel at risk or threatened when seeking to pursue their education,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sen, Richard Blumenthal on Wednesday joined a group of Democrats who wrote to DeVos about the dismissal of more than 500 disability rights complaints by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

“These dismissals are the result of OCR’s new protocol for addressing complaints as outlined in the recently updated Case Processing Manual,” the Democrats wrote. “We fear this standard may be used to dismantle students’ civil rights throughout the department.”

 

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