Lukas Flippo, Photography Editor
On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris and other elected officials visited two local childcare providers during a one-day visit to New Haven.
The stops formed part of Harris’s efforts to promote the new administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus which aims to support childcare facilities, reduce child poverty and assist public schools more broadly. The visit, a part of the “Help is Here” tour, follows President Joe Biden’s March 11 signing of the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion spending package that includes federal aid for state and local governments, one-time $1,400 checks for single tax-filers, a temporarily expanded child tax credit for the 2021 tax season and money to help school districts reopen, among other provisions. The bill passed the House with a 219-212 vote and the Senate with a 50-49 vote.
Harris and other prominent federal and state officials stopped by the Boys & Girls Club of New Haven and the West Haven Child Development Center on their visit. New Haven is slated to receive at least $94 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan.
“We are having this conversation to be clear about the challenge and crises we are facing as a country that in many ways has been accelerated by the pandemic,” Harris said just before a roundtable discussion with state and federal leaders at the Boys & Girls Club. “This is a moment to leapfrog over what otherwise might have been incremental change. To actually fast forward and address some of the longstanding issues that have affected our children.”
Air Force Two landed at the Elm City’s Tweed Airport at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, U.S. House Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven) and Jahana Hayes (D-Waterbury) along with the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona greeted Harris.
According to Harris chief spokesperson Symone Sanders, the visit was also her last stop on the “Help is Here” tour. The Biden-Harris administration launched the “Help is Here” tour on March 16 to highlight how the American Rescue Plan benefits U.S. families. Administration officials previously visited Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and other U.S. cities in the nationwide tour.
Upon landing, Harris departed for the Boys & Girls Club of New Haven, where she offered remarks for the White House pool press before having a closed-door discussion with federal and state leaders about children’s issues. Harris then answered questions from the pool press. Shortly thereafter, the vice president departed for the West Haven Child Development Center where she offered brief remarks for staff and visited a classroom of 14 three- to five-year-olds.
During that visit Peter Velz, the Director of Press Operations for the Vice President, taught the classroom of children that the proper way to pronounce Harris’s first name is “COMMA-la,” not “Ka-MA-la.”
Harris talks stimulus, policy
At the Boys & Girls Club, the vice president highlighted three key areas of the American Rescue Plan: child poverty, childcare and learning loss recovery.
Harris said that the $1.9 trillion package seeks to reduce child poverty in America by half through policies such as the expanded child tax credit, which would give $3,600 per child under six and $3,000 per child between seven and 18 annually. Pre-pandemic, the credit amounted to $2,000 per child.
Local efforts in favor of the child tax credit increase long precede the American Rescue Plan. New Haven’s DeLauro has continuously advocated for the increase since first introducing a similar proposal 18 years ago. She has made frequent media appearances since and recently published a piece in TIME Magazine to promote the policy. The expanded child tax credit is currently temporary, but DeLauro stated Friday that she is committed to making it permanent.
Harris said that investment in childcare facilities is of particular importance during the pandemic. She noted that childcare centers not only help children but also working-class mothers and the economy more broadly.
At the West Haven center, she made similar remarks, stating that two million women have left the workforce since the start of the pandemic and that childcare support will help women return to work.
During Harris’s visit, Lamont announced his plans to use $210 million in federal stimulus money to invest in early childcare programs statewide. Under Lamont’s plan, $50 million of the $210 million would go to the state’s Care 4 Kids program, which supports parents enrolled in higher education or a workforce training program, and another $120 million would fund “operational stabilization grants” for struggling childcare businesses.
The American Rescue Plan provides $122 billion in elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds, also known as ESSER funds — federal dollars that school districts nationwide will be able to spend on school reopening, academic acceleration and socio-emotional support for students. While at the West Haven center, Harris stated that the investment will help alleviate learning loss and address the “recent history of inadequately funding our schools.”
At the Boys & Girls Club, the roundtable of federal and state leaders discussed the increase in the number of reported cases of child neglect in Connecticut during the pandemic and the mental health toll that the emergency has had on children.
New Haveners react to Harris’s visit
New Haven community members came out to the streets in droves to see the Harris’s motorcade. Some brought welcoming messages, others protest signs.
Ward 3 Alder Ron C. Hunt, who represents the Hill neighborhood where the Boys & Girls Club is located, waited at the intersection of Howard Avenue and Columbus Avenue with constituents to see the motorcade. He told the News that was excited about Harris’s decision to tour the childcare center and the American Rescue Plan more broadly.
“I’m excited because [the Hill is a community] where there is Black and brown. We’ve been suffering a lot — even prior to the pandemic,” Hunt told the News. “Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel with the help that the federal government has sent our way.”
Hunt said that his constituents often suffer from food insecurity, high unemployment and housing access issues during the pandemic, adding that 25 percent of the residents in the Hill neighborhood are food insecure. He believes federal spending will help alleviate some of those issues. Hunt added that Harris’ visit shows that the New Haven community’s organizing efforts for the Biden-Harris ticket last fall were not in vain and that the administration’s stimulus package will help the community.
David Allen, an East Haven resident who saw Air Force Two at Tweed, agreed with Hunt that the American Rescue Plan has supported New Haven families. Allen told the News that he is currently unemployed but that the $1,400 stimulus check he received from the federal government has helped him pay expenses.
White House pool reporters Daniela Altimara of the Hartford Courant and Emilie Munson of Hearst Media’s Washington Desk covered the day’s visits and recounted seeing some supporters of former President Donald Trump waving Trump 2020 flags along Harris’ motorcade route. At Tweed Airport, a Trump supporter was spotted holding an “Americans 1st” sign, in reference to Trump’s campaign slogan. The supporter later left the airport in a golf cart spray-painted in colors of the American flag.
At the Boys & Girls Club, members of Unidad Latina en Acción held a sign urging the Biden-Harris administration to immediately halt deportations. ULA Director John Lugo explained in an interview with the New Haven Register that the group’s presence was to call for action on immigration reform. Despite having initially halted some deportations for their first 100 days in office, the Biden-Harris administration has continued to deport thousands of undocumented immigrants, a policy that has been met with nationwide controversy.
Harris’s secret service agents picked up pizzas from Sally’s Apizza in Wooster Square at around 3:30 pm. Later in the evening, they visited Zuppardi’s of West Haven.
Christian Robles | email@example.com
Correction, Mar. 30: An earlier version of this story said Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law on March 12. In fact, he signed it on March 11. The story has been updated.