An abundance of healthy selections. Clearly marked nutrition labeling. The ability to pre-order. Fresh produce and meat. The 364,040 people in Connecticut who face hunger—one in every 10 residents—are increasingly likely to find these and other grocery store-like features at their local food pantries.
Dr. Veronica Maria Pimentel, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, recalls a patient who suffered a stroke soon after delivering her baby prematurely. The woman’s Medicaid eligibility ended just two months after she gave birth, despite the complications caused by her stroke and the baby’s premature birth. Although the woman’s medical coverage ended, Pimentel said, her needs didn’t. “She still needs physical therapy. She still needs occupational therapy.
New Haven Community Health Worker (CHW) Katia Astudillo helps dozens of her clients navigate the logistics of getting vaccinated and connects them with other health services. She even helps them find rental assistance. In and around New London, CHW Lizbeth Polo-Smith hands out flyers about COVID-19 safety and vaccinations at churches, laundromats, stores, warming centers for the homeless—anywhere she can. As COVID-19 laid bare Connecticut’s health care deserts, it now highlights the efforts of CHWs who labored in forgotten neighborhoods for years. In many ways, they have become a key factor in the state’s public health response for marginalized communities during the pandemic.
When her car started making a noise more than a year ago, Chinara Johnson parked the vehicle and hasn’t used it since. As a New Haven mother of 5-year-old twin boys, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, and an 8-year-old daughter, Johnson doesn’t have the money to get the car running properly again. She also didn’t have money for childcare as she underwent breast cancer treatments, including surgery and chemotherapy, and is now struggling with increased utility and food bills since the kids are home during the pandemic. Over the past few years, Johnson has not been eligible for federal child tax credits because she doesn’t make enough money. But under the American Family Act—sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and others—Johnson would qualify to receive direct payments of $3,600 each for the boys and $3,000 for her daughter in federal child tax credits.