Faith Leaders, Advocates Celebrate Elimination of Welfare Liens

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Connecticut became the 48th state in the nation last week to prevent the state from putting a welfare lien on someone’s home. Advocates and faith leaders took a victory lap Tuesday but they aren’t stopping there. 

“To buy my own home at 50 years old, first of all, was amazing because I came out of poverty,” Renee Blake said. 

But when social service workers told Blake they planned on putting a $70,000 lien on her home for assistance she received 40 years ago, she said it was heartbreaking. 

Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation four days ago that erases that lien for Blake and thousands of other Connecticut residents. 

“Now I’m able to sell my house and get a small one and pay for it outright. So I am happy and I’m so thankful,” Blake said. 

But help didn’t arrive soon enough for some.

“The moment for me is bittersweet. I lost my home and became homeless because a welfare lien placed on my property prevented me from renegotiating my mortgage,” Isee Greenwood of New Haven said. 

She added that “the home that I shared with my children is gone. Home that we thought we owned.” 

It was still a day for many to celebrate. 

“For the families who have had welfare liens on their homes many will finally have equity,” Sarah White, an attorney with the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, said. 

White said removing welfare liens will help build generational wealth especially in black and brown communities. 

But advocates said there’s more to be done because the law doesn’t cover other types of legal settlements, only housing. 

“Say a worker has to sue their boss for not paying their wages, if there’s a welfare lien Connecticut will still take half of the money,” White said. 

The law also doesn’t cover estates either so the state can collect a debt from whatever a person planned to leave their family. 

Speaker of the House Matt Ritter said when they passed the bill he got a call from a constituent. 

“This constituent cried for five minutes because she had a $45,000 lien on her two-family home on Oakland Terrace in Hartford and it is gone,” Ritter said. 

Ritter said the work is far from over and they will continue to ensure that the state cannot go after people for any type of welfare lien. 

Lawmakers said they also plan to tackle clean slate legislation and aim to make racism a public health crisis.

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