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New London rethinks how to provide services to residents in need after federal funds are exhausted

New London Mayor Michael Passero
Courtesy of the City of New London
New London Mayor Michael Passero

The city of New London will allocate over $3 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to transform how they deliver human services in their community. That means revamping aging, substance use, child welfare and other services provided by the city or partner organizations.

New London has received around $26 million through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which provides state and local governments with funding to help tackle issues brought on by the pandemic.

Jeanne Milstein, the city's director of human services, said the money will be used to help turn the current system on its head.

“Typically, the human services delivery model we treat people with problems, and we want to give them services and support, so when they don’t work, we blame the people and not the broken system,” Milstein said. “So, this is an opportunity to fix the systems. It’s an opportunity to build on the assets that we have in our community. To focus on the voices of our community members and what’s important to them.”

Projects can come from nonprofits or possibly start-ups, but the city has set up a committee who will only accept projects with a business plan that can show their sustainability and ability to fund themselves once federal funds are exhausted.

New London Mayor Michael Passero said any new project they select won’t be a one-off.

“To improve our city, to improve the lives of the people that live in our city for decades to come, not for the four years that we will actually be spending the money,” Passero said. “So, the challenge for us is to invest this money in programs and projects that will continue to deliver and provide benefits for the city well into the foreseeable future.”

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.