Dodd, Healey promote child health

Federal legislation that aims to give children easier access to health insurance is gaining support from New Haven’s Board of Aldermen.

In May, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. George Miller, R-Calif., introduced a bill entitled “The Act to Leave No Child Behind”. The act provides health coverage for children, child care funding, tax relief to low income families, and improvements in juvenile justice and gun safety.

Alderman Benjamin Healey ’04 has proposed a resolution to declare New Haven a “Leave No Child Behind City.” The act will go before the full Board of Aldermen on Nov. 8.

Healey said that the Rev. Frederick J. Streets, the Yale University Chaplain, brought the issue to his attention.

“The act is an issue that everyone can rally around,” Healey said. “We want to combat the way we punish children who are poor because the poverty of parents shouldn’t be a detriment to the opportunities of children.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 14.7 percent of Connecticut children live in poverty.

If passed in Connecticut, the Act to Leave No Child Behind will supplement the state’s current Healthcare for UninSured Kids and Youth plan. HUSKY provides health insurance for low-income children, but Healey said one of the problems with the plan is that a lot of people are not signed up. He added that 111,000 Connecticut residents under 18 have no health insurance.

The new act aims to simplify health insurance enrollment procedures and make more doctors available to members of the plan.

“Right now, we want to encourage people to become more aware of the provisions of the act,” Streets said.

Streets and Healey hope the Board of Aldermen will endorse the bill next week, joining the Yale chaplain’s office and Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP).

In addition to medical coverage, the act has titles regarding child care, educational reforms, tax relief and housing.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, child care costs exceed public college tuition costs in virtually every state. In all, 12 percent of eligible children currently receive assistance from the existing child care and development block grant, and three out of five eligible preschoolers are able to participate in Head Start programs. The Leave No Child Behind Act should assist families with child care costs and allow more children to participate in Head Start.

The act also allows low-income families with more than two children to receive a larger tax credit and increases the supply of affordable housing units and the number of Section VIII housing vouchers. These vouchers serve as an alternative to public housing, for the government assists low-income families with rental payments.

“We want to make an increased commitment to children, and this act represents a step in the right direction,” Healey said.

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