Social distancing ambassadors among new youth program's jobs
Connecticut plans to expand a year-round employment program for youths to include opportunities in the COVID-19 age, including work as social distancing ambassadors and promoters of safer health practices.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday he has authorized releasing $2 million from the Coronavirus Relief Funds to broaden the Connecticut Youth Employment Program to include employment with community-based agencies throughout Connecticut.
The funding comes from the state's portion of the federal CARES ACT. It will be added to the $4.5 million the state previously allocated for the program, for a total of $7.1 million this year.
“Not only will this help more youths gain employment during this difficult time, but it will also enhance the critical efforts of community health agencies in their response to the pandemic,” Lamont said in a recent statement.
Some of the job opportunities under the expanded program will include virtual outreach through social media to promote safer health practices; delivering educational materials to community and other organizations; providing help to homebound families; and reaching out to young people and acting as social distancing ambassadors.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or lead to death.
In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:
Visitors from eight additional states with high COVID infection rates will now have to quarantine for 14 days once they arrive in Connecticut. The Lamont administration on Tuesday doubled the number of states on the list. It now includes Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Lamont has said he hopes people from those locations will ultimately forgo their plans to travel to Connecticut, which currently has among lowest infection rates in the U.S.
As of Tuesday, there have been more than 46,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut, including 4,322 COVID-associated deaths, an increase of two since Monday. The number of people hospitalized has dropped to 98 people.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Tuesday that absentee ballot applications are being mailed this week for the Aug. 11 primary to eligible registered Democrats and Republicans as part of an effort to help accommodate voters who don't want to go to the polls because of the pandemic.
“We want to make sure that people have plenty of time to get those applications back to their local town,” said Merrill, a Democrat, who noted large lines at the polls in other states where absentee ballots were not mailed out in time for the primary. A group of Republicans, including two state legislators, have sued to block the plan, arguing it could increase the likelihood of voter fraud.
Both Merrill and Lamont have called on state lawmakers to make Connecticut's rules for obtaining an absentee ballot less restrictive so people can cast a ballot from home in November as well. The General Assembly is tentatively planning to hold a special session this summer.
Merrill on Tuesday selected the ballot order for the presidential primary. For Republicans, President Donald Trump will top the ballot, followed by California businessman Rocky De La Fuente and then “uncommitted" to a candidate. For Democrats, former Vice President Joe Biden will top the ballot, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and then “uncommitted." There will also be primaries held in some congressional and legislative districts as well.
PLASTIC BAG FEE
Connecticut's 10-cent fee on single-use plastic bags is scheduled to return on Wednesday. Lamont had suspended the fee on March 26, amid concern that reusable bags could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus. The Department of Public Health now says the most current scientific information indicates reusable bags do not serve as a significant source of infection for COVID-19.
The plastic bag tax was enacted on Aug. 1, 2019 as a way of reducing the number of bags littering the environment. It's scheduled to continue until June 30, 2021. After that time, Connecticut retailers will be prohibited from providing or selling single-use checkout bags to customers.