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Jennifer Leeper

Running for State Representative

2 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Democrat

CEP Status: participating

Website:

Age: 36

Marital Status: Married

Current Residence: Fairfield

Current Job: Member - Fairfield Board of Education, Chair - Finance Committee

Previous Job: Founding Partner - 475 Consulting Group

Previous Job: Education Service Specialist - CT State Dept. of Ed.

Education: Wellesley College, BA & University of Chicago, MPP

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What can be done to improve the business climate in Connecticut while COVID-19 continues to be a risk?
We have a unique opportunity to promote a suburban renaissance throughout Connecticut, and to convince businesses to settle here after this pandemic. Lawmakers must explore initiatives like a modest tax incentive to get businesses in the door, then a longevity tax break or tax incentive as they reach certain thresholds for number of employees and years in Connecticut. We can offer similar incentives to existing businesses for growing their business in the state. And there are many things that the state should have done to ease the burden on our existing small businesses because they have been hit incredibly hard by this pandemic too. The state should have facilitated bulk purchasing of things like PPE, cleaning supplies, sanitizer, touchless dispensers, plexiglass dividers, and also created a clearinghouse where business could go to cheaply order signage, sinks, tents, technology, etc. It is not too late for the state to leverage its purchasing power for the things that businesses will continue to need and they should take immediate action. We could offer student loan forgiveness to Connecticut’s graduates who start businesses here and stay at least five years, or who go to work in one of our growth sectors such as biotech or green energy and stay at least 5 years. The more businesses we attract and start, the more attractive we become for future transplants, and the less the tax burden will be on residents alone. Connecticut has a unique opportunity to take decisive action now to rebuild our economy and attract businesses and people fleeing New York looking for a better and more affordable quality of life, so that when people are considering their options, Connecticut is the best choice.
What specific legislation would you support to reduce racism in Connecticut?
Racism is a public health crisis, and I promise to be part of the efforts to correct our health equity issues locally and on a state level. I will work to identify and take meaningful steps to transform our health system disparities, and that includes legislative action. Racism shortens lives, and I’ve seen the ripple effects in the school communities that I’ve worked with in the past. Families of color live with disproportionately higher cortisol levels, higher rates of chronic stress, higher rates of chronic disease, and right now we are seeing higher rates of COVID-19 infection on top of this. Children of color experience higher rates of economic hardship and increased exposure to traumatic events, and all of this impacts our society and future generations when we don’t address this and work to find solutions. We need to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a safe and healthy life, and I would work to support legislation that provides greater funding, policy and data analysis surrounding health system transformation on the issues that affect the health and wellbeing of CT’s residents, families and children.
With so much uncertainty ahead about COVID-19, how would you ensure that the people's business – both at the legislature and in all of our elections – will be conducted effectively, and with full participation, in the safest possible manner for the foreseeable future?
With higher education facing major changes because of the pandemic, what steps will you take to make sure that Connecticut’s residents have access to college and/or other job training that won’t leave them tens of thousands of dollars in debt?
For the first time ever, Connecticut residents qualified for free community college for this fall semester. Students from all financial backgrounds were eligible to apply, but they were required to be a graduate of a public or private high school in Connecticut and also be a first-time college student. I'd work to ensure that residents have ample time to apply as well as have all the details required to make an informed decision on which of the state’s 12 community colleges could be a fit for their educational needs. A year’s tuition at one of the state’s 12 community colleges is about $5,000 and right now there are many students who have had to consider enrolling in our community colleges instead of paying outrageous amounts for their out of state or other costly tuitions due to the pandemic and remote learning environment. We should be doing whatever we can to encourage their enrollment and vocational training, regardless of where students are in their post-secondary education journey. States need to provide a reliable stream of financial support so community colleges can offer a high-quality and affordable education. Students attending community colleges shouldn't be facing a price higher than their family’s total income during this pandemic when many have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or experienced other hardships. I will engage with employers and trade unions to open up the lines of communication for apprenticeship and work-based learning. I will urge our Governor to push for stimulus packages that can be better used to re-skill, retrain and up-skill workers here in Connecticut into some of the future-oriented and highly skilled renewable energy, IT or biotechnology fields as well.
What is one specific policy you support to help protect African Americans as an at-risk group during the pandemic?
How can Connecticut lower healthcare costs while also improving quality and access to care?
What should Connecticut do to re-tool our public health for COVID-19 and the possibility of future pandemics, while also addressing other chronic illnesses that put people at risk every day?
We need to examine our public health issues here in Connecticut, as problems existed prior to the pandemic and are only getting worse. I would push for policies and legislation that requires more transparency, accountability and support for our residents, as well as work to address the shortage of staff, testing and PPE in our health care facilities, nursing homes, and more. I’m especially concerned with the crisis we saw at nursing homes, and the lack of communication and transparency between facilities, residents and their families as hospitals transferred patients from hospitals to these facilities. I will advocate for seniors impacted by social isolation, and help to put safeguards in place especially for those with underlying conditions. Families need to be able to continue with Telehealth or virtual visitations long after this pandemic, to ensure that they can make informed decisions for the care and safety of their loved ones. I’d elevate programs to support patients with illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, and depression, as many of these can be delivered in various settings to patients at-home or within facilities. Using a proactive and solutions oriented approach, we could tackle many of our public health issues here in Connecticut and show our residents the dignity and respect that they deserve.
Connecticut’s revenues will sharply decline as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and, unlike Congress, Connecticut has a balanced budget requirement. What changes would you make to balance the budget? (If you want cuts, be specific what will be cut. If you want to raise taxes, be specific about which taxes.)