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Coalition of mayors call for Connecticut to invest $1 billion in youth programs

Bob Nichols/Creative Services Center-Photogr
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Mohegan youth enrolled in after-school program participate in physical activities at the Mohegan Tribe Community Center and Government Building in Uncasville, Connecticut on Nov. 18, 2013.

A coalition of Connecticut mayors joined advocates at the state Capitol in Hartford on Wednesday to advocate for a $1 billion investment plan in programs supporting Connecticut’s youth. The funds will be spent over five years to improve services and opportunities that address the physical and mental needs of the youth in the state.

"We cannot ignore the long-term impacts this pandemic has had on our children – physically, mentally, and emotionally," Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons said.

The goal of the plan is to expand on access to youth jobs, after-school programs, mental health services for at-risk youth and community centers.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said law enforcement has typically been used to apprehend troubled youth and research shows this way is not successful.

“We all feel it’s very important to kind of flip the thinking of how to address issues around high-risk young people, turn that over on its head, and not approach things from a law enforcement perspective but approach things from a more compassionate way that is evidence based,” Elicker said.

The five-year plan would consist of $160 million in programmatic funding per year with an additional $200 million in total bonding for physical infrastructure over that period. Elicker said the funding would expand on programs that are already in place and work.

“We believe that it’s important to invest in our youth to make sure that they have every opportunity to succeed,” Elicker said.

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said the need for youth programs is evident across the state, but the funding is not.

“Young people across the state of Connecticut have struggles some more than others, some don’t have the same kinds of opportunities, the same resources as others, so it's incumbent upon us to do everything we possibly can to help them,” Rilling said.

Rilling said the funding would come from federal coronavirus assistance and state's general fund.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.