Hana Feldman plans to return to school once her firstborn is old enough for daycare and hopes that two-week-old Eva will have an easier time following in her footsteps with state money newly set aside for college tuition.
That new mother returned to Yale New Haven Hospital Tuesday morning to stand beside a crew of politicians promising that Feldman’s daughter will be one of thousands to reap the benefits of their own just-born Baby Bonds program.
That initiative kicked off July 1, just ten days before Eva’s birthday, meaning that all Connecticut children covered by Husky health insurance will come into the world with access to state-funded trusts they’ll be able to claim come adulthood.
“This is ultimately about helping to build wealth,” said State Treasurer Erick Russell, who fought to enact that program since taking office in January. “It’s built to end that cycle of generational poverty that so many of our community members face.”
By placing $3,200 in a trust for every child born under Husky coverage, the state is paving the way for incoming Connecticut kids to collect up to $11,000 and $24,000 by the time they claim their proceeds between ages 18 and 30.
Connecticut became the first state in the country to pass baby bonds legislation back in 2021. Funding was allotted during the state’s most recent legislative session, with $381 million available for the program from reserves set aside during the restructuring of the Teachers’ Retirement Fund in 2019.
“I believe this is a program that should catch on throughout the nation,” Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney said. “Many studies have shown that the classic rags to riches Horatio Alger story is true for fewer and fewer people born into poverty,” he noted. Baby Bonds can help a wider array of children born without financial safety nets to chase the so-called American dream with the baseline capital needed to purchase a home, pursue a college education or invest in a business, Looney said.
“God bless Eva as she grows up and is able to access all these programs!” he concluded.
Wooster Square Alder and local labor organizer Ellen Cupo welcomed the statewide program as a needed intervention in New Haven, where racialized health disparities are particularly prominent. Life expectancy in Newhallville, she said, is 10 years lower on average than in the adjacent Prospect Hill — a divide that could be partially bridged by pulling more New Haveners out of poverty they were born into.
Mayor Justin Elicker told the Independent that 1,225 children covered by Husky were born in New Haven in 2022. That’s likely how many children will make up the first round of trust recipients this coming year.
“My wife and I were here after both our children were born,” Elicker remembered of his own experience at Yale New Haven Hospital, where he said staff work to “provide a lot of research-based support for families.”
“People visit your room with free books and talk about the importance of reading to your children,” he offered as an example. “For a lot of parents, including myself, there’s a pretty steep learning curve.”
Fortunately, parents shouldn’t face a learning curve when it comes to Baby Bonds. Kids are automatically eligible so long as their birth is covered by Husky; they are only expected to complete a required financial literacy course upon reaching young adulthood in order to claim their money when the time comes.
Hana Feldman, for example, said she didn’t know until the week before her daughter was born that Eva would receive a baby bond. Her sister, an organizer with New Haven Rising, had mentioned that Eva would “qualify for a little bit of money” — but it wasn’t until Feldman was asked to attend Tuesday’s press conference that she “pretty much learned everything” about the initiative.
The 22-year-old said that she hopes her daughter will use the money she accrues to graduate from the college of her choice.
Feldman, who currently works as a server at Olive Garden, started studying for a degree in social work at Southern Connecticut State University but dropped out when the pandemic hit. Once her daughter is old enough to enroll at school, Feldman said she intends to finish up the necessary classes to get her degree at Gateway.
Overall, she said, the baby bonds “alleviate some of the stress” that comes with thinking not just about one’s own future but their child’s.
Especially, she noted, because “my boyfriend wants six more.”