Baby Bonds compromise reached after CT Mirror reports the Governor quietly stonewalled the landmark legislation that he had championed.
Baby Bonds are a small investment the state makes on behalf of children whose births are covered by Medicaid. The investment grows and when the baby turns 18 they can gain access to the funds and use them for life-changing opportunities such as a down payment on a home, tuition for school, or seed capital to start or invest in a business. In early 2021, State Treasurer Shawn Wooden championed “Baby Bonds,” the legislature adopted a Baby Bonds bill, and the governor enthusiastically (seemingly) signed it. In the summer of 2022 we began to explore the question of “whatever happened with Baby Bonds?” It took Ginny Monk and Katy Golvala four months to definitively answer that question, including wrangling texts and emails from the governor’s top staff through FOI requests. On New Year’s Day 2023 we published the story: despite signing the Baby Bonds bill with great fanfare the governor’s office had been stonewalling its implementation for the previous 18 months. At a chance social encounter a few weeks later newly inaugurated State Treasurer Erick Russell told our Publisher and Editor that he always planned to make Baby Bonds a priority, but our story had elevated it to a top priority. In May 2023 the governor, state treasurer, and members of the General Assembly’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus reached a compromise to implement the program.
Mayor suspends Corporate Counsel 45 minutes after CT Mirror story publishes
CT Mirror investigative reporter Andrew Brown was a driving force behind exposing the West Haven corruption that began during Covid. By the early spring of 2023 pleas, convictions, and sentencing had largely wrapped up. That’s when Andrew decided to take a look at the list of routine legal actions that West Haven was involved in, just to see if anything jumped out at him. Something did jump out: the private attorney handling some of the city’s work had the same last name as the corporation counsel. Andrew easily determined the two were married. He then spoke to the corporation counsel who acknowledged that he directed the work to the law firm in which he and his wife were partners and defended his right to do so. Further, he said that the mayor had approved the arrangement in lieu of a salary increase. About 45 minutes after we published a story reporting this arrangement, we received an email from the mayor saying she had suspended the corporation counsel and cited Andrew’s inquiries as the impetus for her investigation.
Private-sector essential workers discover, apply for pandemic bonuses
On Aug. 5, 2022, we published a story about a new state-launched, $1,000 pandemic bonus program for private-sector essential workers. It quickly received over 20,000 pageviews and was republished by many other news outlets in Connecticut. As a result more than 50,000 applications were received in the first week — crashing the state website multiple times and surprising state officials since other cash assistance programs struggled to get visibility.
State contracting watchdog avoids cuts, gets funds to expand instead
Shortly after the start of the 2022 legislative session, we reported that Gov. Ned Lamont had tucked a provision into his budget proposal to strip the State Contracting Standards Board of key enforcement powers and keep the agency funded at a level that only allows for one full-time employee. In the wake of this reporting, legislative leaders quickly denounced the proposal, leading the governor to retract it. Lawmakers then responded by budgeting $450,000 for the watchdog agency, allowing it to hire new employees and giving it its first investigative staff in its 15-year history.
State school construction program gets accountability overhaul
In 2022, we published numerous investigative stories on Kosta Diamantis’ dealings during his time as head of the state’s school construction office. Lawmakers responded by enacting a number of reforms to the multibillion-dollar grant program, tightening the bidding procedures for school construction contracts and setting stricter deadlines for completing audits of school building projects.
Taxpayers gain access to millions in unclaimed property
On Jan. 2, 2022, we published an investigation that found the state had returned less than 37% of the $2.3 billion in unclaimed property it collected in the past two decades. Lawmakers responded by including reforms to the program in this year’s budget bill, which will help return millions of dollars in uncashed checks, forgotten security deposits, unclaimed insurance policies and other misplaced financial assets to Connecticut residents.
Local COVID relief spending receives state scrutiny in wake of misuse
In the fall of 2021 CT Mirror took a leading role in reporting the misuse of COVID funds in West Haven. In the wake of our reporting and other reporting about this situation, the state budget office announced that it would audit the use of COVID funds by all 169 towns in the state. Our 2021 work continued to ripple in 2022, with multiple arrests, a deeper takeover of municipal finances by the state, and increasingly louder calls for the mayor to resign.
Unemployed workers facing clawbacks get lawmakers’ attention
On Sept. 19, 2021, we published a story detailing a recent surge in repayment requests, which are asking already cash-strapped people to pay back tens of thousands of dollars. Three days after our story published, the co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Labor Committee called on the state Department of Labor to figure out a solution to the growing number of “overpayments” being identified in the unemployment system.
Undocumented immigrants freed from indefinite hospitalizations
On June 15, 2021, we published a story describing how the state’s rules for administering Medicaid prohibit undocumented immigrants from accessing outpatient services or less-expensive nursing home care if they require ongoing treatment after hospitalization — effectively meaning some have to remain hospitalized indefinitely. Five weeks later, Gov. Ned Lamont changed the state’s policy, allowing dozens of undocumented immigrants to go home and saving taxpayers money from expensive hospitalizations.
People of color hidden in state vaccination data gain visibility
On Jan. 27, 2021, we published a story challenging the state’s initial contention that there was no white/Hispanic inequity in vaccine distribution. The state ultimately walked it back.
People seeking affordable housing in suburbs get boost from first state zoning legislation in years
Since 2019, our housing reporting has been a major driver of state legislation to address exclusionary zoning and conversations in suburban town council meetings around the state.
Supreme Court justices cite CT Mirror’s in-depth reporting on status of state’s economy
A Connecticut Supreme Court majority opinion on emergency gubernatorial powers during COVID-19 recently cited a CT Mirror story about the state’s economic prospects.
State lawmakers turn to CT Mirror’s explanatory reporting to craft complex state budget
In this year of federal stimulus, COVID spending, and surprisingly robust tax receipts we continue to publish explanatory journalism about a state budget that has even more moving parts than it usually does.