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Julie Kushner

Running for State Senator

5 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Democrat

CEP Status: participating


Age: 68

Marital Status: Married

Current Residence: Danbury

Current Job: State Senator, 24th District

Previous Job: Director, United Auto Workers

Previous Job:

Education: BA University of Wisconsin


What can be done to improve the business climate in Connecticut while COVID-19 continues to be a risk?
I think two initiatives of the Lamont administration are good beginning steps: $5,000 grants to small businesses (20 or fewer employees) who have been adversely impacted by the virus; and rent assistance paid directly to landlords whose renters are unable to pay because of Covid. The rent relief program helps not only the landlords, but also the renters who are struggling to make ends meet. I’d like to see more programs like this, programs that provide financial help in a direct way. We also need to work with the Department of Labor to enhance job placement programs and training opportunities. We need to focus our efforts to help small businesses and independent contractors who were left out, or didn't have access to the earlier federal CARES Act grants and loans.
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?
Increasing voter participation strengthens our democracy. Giving people the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot in this election is the right thing to do. We learned a lot during the primary election, and the absentee ballot program for the November election has been much smoother. When the legislature stopped meeting last March, the business of the legislature didn't stop. We had daily briefings, frequent hearings, and met with and advised members of the Governor's emergency operations team. We did this while working night and day to help people in our community who were struggling with food insecurity, delayed unemployment payments and health crises. It's clear that social distancing, mask wearing and prohibitions on large gatherings will be with us well into the next legislative session. The legislature will have to implement rules and procedures that will allow us to continue our business remotely -- meeting in committee, holding hearings, and even meeting in session.
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?
In 2019, we passed a bill that provides for free community college. It's critical that we make sure this program continues; it's essential to keep our community colleges and state universities strong, economically viable and accessible to those who are struggling to get by. I also believe all state aid to businesses should be looked at in terms of job potential and the corresponding need for training.
What specific legislation would you support to reduce racism in Connecticut?
I worked with my Senate Democratic colleagues to develop a comprehensive legislative agenda to combat racism in Connecticut, our Juneteenth Agenda. This program sets forth legislative steps we must take to address systemic racism in housing and education. It creates Renaissance Districts for economic development. Furthermore, it included two bills we passed over the summer, Environmental Justice and Police Accountability. Over the past four years, we've seen racist attacks on the rise. It's past time for all of us to get our priorities straight and fight racism in all of its forms.
What is one specific policy you support to help protect African Americans as an at-risk group during the pandemic?
The shortage of PPE and testing for months after the pandemic began had a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities. While most of us sheltered at home, Black and brown workers were on the front-lines working in nursing homes, in grocery stores, in service industries and as personal care attendants to our sick and elderly. They were asked to work without adequate or proper PPE, they weren't prioritized for regular testing. While nursing homes tracked and reported resident cases, they weren't required to report on infection and deaths of their workers. Based on the infectious nature of this disease and what we know about community spread, we need to take steps immediately to prepare for a spike and address these issues through executive orders or legislative action.
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.)
While Connecticut will need help from the federal government to recover from this world-wide pandemic, recent news places us in a better position than expected -- the Rainy Day Fund has grown to more than $3 billion and revenues are higher as well. I'm optimistic that there will be a mandate on November 3rd to help our states and cities. I believe voters around the country understand we must have effective federal relief that will help our towns and cities and will help small business and working families.
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 should look at our experience from the first six months of the pandemic and employ best practices to protect people and reduce community spread. For instance, mandating mask-wearing quickly in the future. Stockpiling PPE, and requiring a rapid distribution plan for every health care facility, including long-term care and congregate living situations. We need to also be prepared for massive testing and contact tracing. We know what worked to reduce community spread, we need to keep doing this until we have the virus under control, and we need to be prepared for another outbreak of coronavirus or other future pandemics.
How can Connecticut lower healthcare costs while also improving quality and access to care?
The impact of the pandemic has brought the need for affordable health care into even sharper focus. Many people lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs. And now, with the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans are emboldened to repeal Obamacare and strip healthcare away from millions of Americans. No matter what happens with Trump, states will be the next line of defense when it comes to protecting care for people. Connecticut's economy will suffer unless its residents and businesses have access to high quality, affordable health insurance. I've fought to cap the cost of insulin this summer and won but we still need to address other ways to bring down the cost of all prescription drugs. One way is to allow the state to leverage its heft in the marketplace to provide Connecticut employers the best quality and most efficient health plan choices possible. The bottom line -- Connecticut residents should have access to the same health care plan legislators give themselves.