As the state continues to work together to agree on proposals for allocating funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, we ask leadership to center health equity as the goal of this funding package.
The proposal for American Rescue Plan Act funding, which was passed out of the Appropriations Committee this week, reduces or removes several provisions of the initial proposal that would advance health equity. These include:
- broadband access both private and public settings,
- community health worker support for families,
- universal home visiting for newborns, and
- incorporating human services into the MyCT project to streamline access to government services.
Each of these provisions would increase opportunities to be healthy for low-income and Black, Latino, Indigenous, and other people of color in Connecticut.
While the most recent proposal maintains a technical mapping of broadband services, it removes the infrastructure support and notes that connectivity can be accomplished with future federal funding sources. Federal infrastructure proposals remain uncertain and have an indefinite timeline. While holding out hope of additional infrastructure funding, we recommend investing some portion of the ARPA funding in ensuring homes and public spaces have access to internet services. Affordability will continue to be a concern; yet, improving infrastructure would increase opportunities for people to access online applications for social services, telehealth, and information about the pandemic and recovery.
The proposed universal home visiting program has been limited to Bridgeport and New Haven. Extensive research demonstrates how such programs improve lives. Further, the associated community health worker program maintains a caseload of 3,000 families, but funding for this work was reduced by $15 million. Community health workers serve as trusted sources of information and bridges between people and the health and social services they need. The state’s recent investments in time-limited community health worker projects related to COVID-19 contact tracing and vaccine efforts demonstrate an understanding of the crucial role in addressing inequities in health.
Health Equity Solutions and others have long advocated for streamlined access to social services programs. Applications and eligibility rules are complex and confusing. Connecticut’s multiple sign-in criteria, websites, and systems and continued reliance on hard copy notifications make the process of accessing and maintaining services unnecessarily complex. In discussions with navigators and Medicaid enrollees, we learned that the renewal process and multiple applications were both a frustration and a significant hindrance to getting food, housing, health care, and other support.
Other states are convening special sessions to discuss ARPA funding to gather community input on how to best meet needs within the criteria of the federal guidance. Asking Connecticut residents, and particularly residents of color, how they would like to see this money spent would significantly increase the chances of this spending package promoting health equity.
This sizeable federal funding package offers opportunities to promote health equity in our state by addressing inequities in access to the internet, ensuring families’ needs are met by someone they trust and increasing the efficiency of Connecticut’s state-run human services. Together, we can build a Connecticut that offers every resident the opportunity to be as healthy as possible by considering the long-term potential for health equity that this plan could provide and taking action to center health equity in budget negotiations.