Hartford Mayor: Federal Stimulus Funding Is Hugely Consequential

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On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and local officials in Hartford and U.S. Representative John Larson held a news conference on Friday about the funding it will bring to the city and Hartford Schools.

"What President Biden signed into law yesterday will allow us to beat this virus, to begin our recovery and to build back stronger right here in Hartford and in communities in Connecticut and beyond," Bronin said.

President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill this Thursday. “This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving working people … a fighting chance,” Biden said. “That’s what the essence of it is.”

According to Associated Press, the stimulus package includes $130 billion for K-12 schools to hire teachers, upgrade ventilation systems and make other improvements nationwide so that in-person classes can resume.

A news release from Larson’s office said it’s estimated that Hartford will receive $92 million in municipal aid and $127 million in K-12 education funding.

Larson, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Hartford Superintendent of Schools Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and Hartford Board of Education Chair Ayesha Clarke held a news conference at noon at Hartford City Hall.

Bronin said the education funding coming to Hartford will allow the Hartford school system to mount a "massive, multiyear effort to help our kids recover, reengage and heal."

He added that funding for vaccinations will help with the vaccination efforts, businesses, arts and culture and public safety and community safety beyond policing.

"This bill is hugely consequential," he said.

The funding is meant to be spent over a period of years, through 2024, Bronin said.

He said this funding will allow investments in the community that are needed now more than ever.

The bill also includes funding for housing assistance, mental health support and infrastructure, Bronin said.

Torres-Rodriguez said the school district's goal is to have all students back in school this spring unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Before the pandemic, there were inequities, she said.

She and Middletown’s superintendent tell NBC CT think this funding can fundamentally change the way we teach our kids.

“This is an opportunity to address some of the persistent equity gaps that we’ve seen in education historically and some of residual effects that the pandemic has had on us,” said Middletown Public Schools District Superintendent of Schools Michael Conner.

According to data received from Congressman Larson’s office, Middletown School District is expected to receive around $8-million.

Hartford is one of three school districts in our state expected to get the most money based on municipal size and need: about $127 million.

Torres-Rodriguez says they’ll work with all invested parties to, “Try to determine how to accelerate the learning loss for all students and then the social and emotional needs that our students and our families have.”

While they don’t have definite plans, the district hopes to help students dealing with food and housing insecurity. And. They are already planning on expanding summer school to all students, something that hasn’t been possible before.

“Our school year can no longer feel the same. One, because it wasn’t working for all students before and now the level of need is even bigger.”

In the meantime, Hartford’s 10th through 12th graders will be back in school from hybrid learning next week.
Middletown elementary students will be welcomed back in person Monday.

“We want to focus on the new norm and build upon this new norm with technology and the advancements that we’ve seen. So, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We see a peak of the light, but we’re going to start sprinting towards the whole light,” said Conner.

She discussed extending the day and the year and extending summer school.

After Congress finally approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, most of us were left with one question: Am I getting a check? The bill is complicated, so we made it simple using our favorite toys to illustrate who is eligible for full or partial payments.

The White House said the billions for schools would ``begin'' to be distributed this month by the Education Department.

In addition to this news conference,the City of Hartford will hold a virtual town hall on Tuesday, March 23 at 6 p.m. to get feedback from residents about the American Rescue Plan. 

“We are determined to spend the resources we receive from this relief package strategically and with care, prioritizing long-term impact in our community. There is still a lot we need to learn about how we can spend this funding, but we want to begin that discussion with our community with this town hall,” Bronin said in a statement released Thursday morning before President Biden signed the bill.  

Residents will be able to access the town hall using this Zoom link on March 23 at 6 p.m. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88019759571

They can also call in by dialing 1-301-715-8592 and entering the code 880 1975 9571.  

NBC Connecticut and Associated Press
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