BRISTOL – The Connecticut state program UniteCT brought its mobile station to Bristol Friday to assist area residents with housing and electrical utility relief as part of efforts made to assist residents in the wake of pandemic challenges.
First Congressional District of Connecticut Congressman John Larson shared a few words along with Connecticut State Department of Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno and Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
“One of the roles of government that we’ve taken seriously over the last 12 months is providing these services and information to all segments of our population,” said the mayor.
Zoppo-Sassu noted Bristol’s residential population in the last week had achieved over 60% of eligible residents in covid vaccination.
“We know from an economic perspective the pandemic has really wreaked havoc with households, individuals, families and our seniors living on fixed incomes,” said the mayor. “So when Congressman Larson approached me and said we need to bring some of these services to Bristol and bring to light all of the opportunities that we have in order to lift people past this next obstacle, we agreed wholeheartedly because that is what we do with these partnerships.”
Larson lauded city partners for their efforts in combating covid challenges. He said while the American Rescue Plan’s funding had been “transformational” many were still unaware of it.
Larson addressed the advanced child tax credit recently pushed through by the federal government as a necessary measure that many were unaware of. For those with children under the age of 18, citizens may likely be seeing more money coming to them in the form of economic relief.
“It’s not just a program for the impoverished. It’s also very middle class in terms of the families that are going to be receiving the aid they need,” said the congressman.
The congressman lauded the ARPA funds and initiatives administered at the local level to provide for vaccinations and economic relief.
“Everything happens here locally and at the state and this is a prime example here today like UniteCT is doing,” said Larson. “I just want to say when you figure that renters are eligible for up to $15,000 in back payments and $1,500 for utility payments, this is not well known across the state or across the country but that was part of the American Rescue Plane. So it’s efforts like these to get the message out so we’re able to make sure people are (able to receive assistance).”
“UniteCT is our rental relief program so we can help tenants and landlords to make sure they get some assistance up to $15,000 with covid back rents. Maybe people got sick, they lost their jobs or they lost somebody in their family and they weren’t able to meet their obligations,” said Mosquera-Bruno.
She noted the program is meeting with several partners around the state including towns, housing counseling agencies, call centers and more. She thanked staff and those partners for their assistance. She said the UniteCT mobile center was also to help individuals who may not have access to the internet.
“We want to make sure that people get the resources and that there are not any barriers for them to be able to access these resources,” said the commissioner. She said that across the state there had already been 4,200 applicants in the UniteCT program approved for assistance and that about $33 million had been distributed. She said currently almost every day the state administered program is distributing around $2 million in assistance.
Director of UniteCt Dawn Parker said that the program would help individuals meeting 80 percent of HUD median income requirements and over 200 people were working at the state level to help. She noted it was the program’s job to make sure it was intercepting any form of fraud or abuse as well.
“Everything that you do to get the word out to the people in your communities is going to help us be successful so that’s the mission; help other people that need the help,” said Parker.
Marina Marmolejo, program manager for UniteCT, said one of the key reasons for having the outreach program travel in the form of a bus was to make certain those who needed to apply for assistance could have staff guidance and technology brought to them as the application process was online.