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Gov. Ned Lamont seeking to help women during COVID-19 recession with employment, child care proposals

Hartford Courant - 3/2/2021

With women disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 recession, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont unveiled a package of proposals Tuesday to help them in employment and child care.

Many women have lost their jobs in retail, restaurants, social services and hotels due to the ongoing pandemic as the state and nation still suffer from high unemployment. With some students still out of school and engaging in remote learning, many women are helping their children at home if they do not have child care.

“Women’s participation in the workforce is at a 30-year low, related to what’s gone on in COVID,” Lamont told reporters Tuesday. “A lot of that was related to day care and child care. ... With a 10% unemployment rate, this is an incredibly important time for us to take the lead on child care, day care, paid family and medical leave and education.”

The bills include a proposed change in state law that would allow state campaign funds to be used for child care expenses for political candidates. The money could be used by both male and female candidates, but officials said the issue has greatly impacted women candidates.

The move comes after the groundbreaking case of Caitlin Clarkson Pereira, a Democrat who was initially blocked by the State Elections Enforcement Commission from using campaign funds for child care in 2018. But she filed a lawsuit against the state commission in 2019 to reimburse child care expenses for her daughter, Parker, who was 3 years old when her mother was running for the state legislature in the 132nd House District in Fairfield.

Clarkson Pereira eventually won her lawsuit, but state officials said they want to change the law in order to remove any question and make it clear that the expenses are reimbursable.

“You’re running around with young kids, you’re trying to gauge how many hours you can afford for a babysitter, how many hours your mother-in-law can pitch in or how many hours your daughter can take being out door-knocking in 90-degree August weather,” Clarkson Pereira said at the time. “I’m tired and hot after an hour. How is she going to feel?”

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, who chairs the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls, said that a record-breaking 138 women candidates ran for state and federal office in 2018, but that accounted for only 35% of the 392 candidates in the races. Currently, 34% of the seats in the state legislature are held by women, but none of the top positions — such as House speaker, Senate president pro tem and the top caucus leaders in both parties — is held by a woman.

“Child care continues to be a barrier that prevents too many mothers, especially low-income mothers who cannot afford outside help, from running for office,” Bysiewicz said.

The expenses for child care are already allowed at the federal level, where Democratic Congresswoman Jahana Hayes of Wolcott used campaign funds to cover child care for her son who was 8 years old at the time.

The package also includes fast-track licensing for military spouses and others who are already licensed in other states and need to be licensed in Connecticut as bakers, hairdressers, real estate brokers, chiropractors, plumbers, electricians and hundreds of other professional trades. About 25% of Connecticut jobs require a license — far more than in many other states, officials said.

The Connecticut licenses can often take more than a year to obtain, which is a problem when some military families and other frequent movers are in the state for only three years, lawmakers said. Overall, 90% of the trailing military spouses are women, and the bill would allow reciprocity with other states so they could continue practicing their profession, lawmakers said.

“We recognize we’re in competition with other states,” said Rep. Michael D’Agostino, a Democratic attorney from Hamden who co-chairs the legislature’s general law committee. “We want people to come here, and we want them to be able to do their jobs here that they’ve trained their whole lives doing. You can’t just show up and start doing this job. We’re going to make sure that if you come here that you’ve got the equivalent experience in your other state before you start working here.”

Another bill calls for improving workforce development by offering a “bulk ride transit pass” to help lower-income workers to get to colleges, universities, employers, private occupational schools and state agencies so that they can receive the proper training and education that will allow them to obtain better-paying jobs.

Lamont and Bysiewicz are also backing a bill by state Sen. Derek Slap of West Hartford that seeks to prevent age discrimination by preventing employers from seeking the age or graduation dates of job seekers unless the age is “a legitimate occupational qualification.” Women, they said, “are particularly affected by age discrimination” and would be helped by the bill.

Lamont said the state needs to make changes this year.

“Our state and nation will never, ever live up to its potential unless each and every person — young and old, white or black, rich and poor, male and female — have the full opportunity to live up to their potential,” he said.

Christopher Keating can be reached at


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