HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A first-of-its-kind program in the nation will give babies born into poverty in Connecticut a $3,200 bond that will grow as they do.
Connecticut Treasurer Erick Russell said the program will “transform what the future can look like for thousands of Connecticut kids.”
The bonds will be deposited automatically for babies born after July 1.
Recipients can claim the bond funds when they are between 18 and 30 years old. By then, the amount could increase from the starting $3,200 to $24,000.
“That’s one more reason to stay in the state of Connecticut, by the way, for 18 years or 30 years,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “It’s a good solution and it gives a lot of our kids some extra hope.”
More than 15,000 babies are born into poverty each year in Connecticut. Babies must be covered by Husky Health at birth to qualify.
“We have a system that keeps a lot of folks poor,” said Merrill Gay, the executive director of the CT Early Childhood Alliance. “This is a way we can break out of that.”
The funds must be used for purchasing a home within the state, starting or investing in a business in the state, paying for higher education, funding job training or saving for retirement. Recipients must also be Connecticut residents who complete a financial literacy course.
Gay said the new baby bond program will give children a strong foundation as they transition into adulthood.
“This is a longer-term approach with the baby bonds, to look at how do we get those kids who we are trying to get a good solid start, how do they move into the middle class, a leg up when they turn 18,” Gay said.
State organizations are excited for the program.
“As a community advocate and organizer, this means a life-changing opportunity for children born in poverty,” said Maria Matos, the executive director of CT LEAD/Mosaic Coalition. “It will bring hope and an opportunity to build generational wealth and will also create economic vitality to CT by keeping the youth investing and staying in the state.”
The funds are exempt from state tax payments. Russell said he’s working to create a federal exemption, as well.
The program was proposed a couple of years ago, but Lamont said he had additional questions about where the funds would come from. After multiple proposals, the solution was a $381 million reserve fund. State officials said it will not cost tax payers.
Connecticut Republican House Leader Vincent Candelora (R-District 86) released a statement on Tuesday critical of the funding strategy.
“I appreciate Treasurer Russell’s dedication to finding away a to fund the Baby Bonds initiative, but at a time when we’re talking about fiscal guardrails, the dire need for tax relief, and the importance of investing in local education, I have to question a solution that involves repurposing surplus taxpayer dollars that had been used as a contractual makeweight to refinance teacher pension debt,” he said. “This seems to undermine the message of fiscal responsibility the Governor has promoted throughout the session, and the vague mechanics of how they’ll simply take $380 million for this program certainly deserves more scrutiny.”