On June 29, CCP hosted a panel discussion on Connecticut's state budget and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, and what they mean for philanthropy. The event was moderated by Elaine Mintz, vice president of operations at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and featured:
Keith Phaneuf, state finances reporter, CT Mirror
Emily Byrne, executive director, Connecticut Voices for Children
Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO, CT Community Nonprofit Alliance
Joe DeLong, executive director and CEO, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities
For those that missed the discussion or are looking for a recap, here are some top takeaways.
A reminder of CT’s unresolved unemployment
In Keith Phaneuf’s opening presentation on this year’s state budget, he highlighted the considerable job loss that CT is facing post-pandemic. The current 130,000-person unemployment rate is greater than the unemployment rates faced in the Great Recession in 2007. The pandemic wiped out 10 years of job growth in CT and then some. Keith did give credit to the state for investments that support a friendlier business climate, like in municipalities and the unemployment insurance trust.
A few bold policies, but status quo for working families and people of color
“This year was one we may never see again in our lifetime. We were so close to being able to touch the stars – not just distantly reach for them, but I think CT’s primary problems present before this budget still exist.” - Emily Byrne
Emily Byrne discussed some of the strengths of the last budget session for advancing family economic security, including the expansion of CT’s earned income tax credit, baby bonds, and resources to stabilize family childcare homes and to address student mental health. For all the good of the passed programs and spending, Emily reminds us that there’s a long way to go as CT was the only state to see its child poverty rate increase before the pandemic (from 2010 to 2019).
Towns and municipalities will need support in funds administration, can look to philanthropy as investment partners
A lot of ARPA decision-making will be made at the municipal level. Joe DeLong helped funders understand that many towns and municipalities do not have the administrative capacity to track and report on the dollars that they are receiving. Additionally, towns and cities may not know what to invest these dollars for the biggest impact. He noted there was a real opportunity for the philanthropic community to partner with municipalities.
Gains for nonprofits, but more is needed
Gian-Carl Casa celebrated the gains that CT nonprofits made in the budget, including $190 million in additional funding over 2 years, but reminded us that much more was still needed as that number falls short of the $400+ million proposal. Much of this increase will be going to labor costs, especially those related to group homes.
Philanthropy’s role in this moment
The speakers were asked to share their perspectives on philanthropy’s role.
Gian-Carl sees it as a moment to help convene leaders from multiple sectors. “They might act as a convener of bringing together community leaders and nonprofit leaders to talk about where the needs are, and to talk about where investments can be made.” - Gian-Carl Casa
Meanwhile, Keith views philanthropy’s role geared more towards promoting accountability within the state’s government. “What philanthropy has is the ability to push for more information...We have a culture in CT of not wanting to look into issues until we’re shamed into them. The political resistance to looking into tough issues really only breaks down only after philanthropy weighs in.” - Keith Phaneuf
Emily sees philanthropy as a driving force for awareness and education of anti-poverty programs. “[ARPA] is less impactful if folks don't know what's out there. It's possible you can help design outreach efforts focused on historically disadvantage and marginalized communities. Perhaps you can launch a public awareness campaign in coordination with your municipal leadership.” - Emily Byrne
And Joe DeLong sees philanthropy as a partner for towns and cities to drive collaborative efforts and target investments. “The philanthropic community has a real opportunity of not only driving the change you want to see, but also being the intermediary between cities and town… It’s very powerful to come in and say, ‘if you do this, we’ll match at this level or put in more on top.’ It gives you an opportunity to drive the agenda.” – Joe DeLong
We would like to thank our speakers and moderator, as well as the attendees of this informative event.