State Representative District 143

Gail Lavielle

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Party: Republican

CEP Status: participating

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Current Residence: Wilton

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Stephanie Thomas

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Party: Democrat

CEP Status: participating

Website: votestephaniethomas.com

Age: 51

Marital Status: Married

Current Residence: Norwalk

Current Job: Small business owner - fundraising consultant for nonprofits

Previous Job: Grant writer for nonprofits

Previous Job: Prospect Researcher for nonprofits

Education: BA from NYU; MS in Nonprofit Management from New School University

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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.)
What can be done to improve the business climate in Connecticut while COVID-19 continues to be a risk?
The pandemic has been devastating for many local businesses. As one of the most important economic engines in our state, we have to do everything we can to keep these businesses in business. We need to support them with cash infusions, workforce training, and serious reform in the bureaucratic hurdles required to access funds in this time of need. I applaud Governor Lamont for doing exactly this several days ago with the announcement of additional CARES money allocated to provide direct grants to businesses with payroll under $1.5 million. In Hartford, I will continue to fight for access to grants or low/no interest loans and affordable healthcare options that lower their overhead. Healthcare is the second highest cost beyond labor for most businesses who can afford to provide it. We also need to make sure that customers and clients feel safe returning to patronize local businesses by providing clear safety protocol guideline and allowing towns some flexibility around the details based on the local situation. We should also consider another sales-tax-free week to drive consumer demand either during the holiday period or in the new year. As the conditions of the pandemic continue to evolve, we must remember that businesses aren’t one-size-fits-all. Micro and small businesses will need different types of help than mid-sized and large corporations. We need to remain responsive and flexible to help all sizes of businesses thrive during the coming years.
What specific legislation would you support to reduce racism in Connecticut?
Legislation can be a lever for change, but it alone cannot reduce racism - that responsibility rests on the shoulders of every person. For example, laws that bus children to nearby high-performing districts might improve outcomes for those students who get to participate, but they do not address why the curriculum being taught is so skewed towards white culture and leaves students of color at a psychological disadvantage. Policies that create ladders to success and keep communities healthy promote a more just society for everyone. Viewing all legislation - whether its affordable college, business development opportunities, affordable healthcare, gun safety, environmental policy, etc. - through a racial equity lens will help ensure that enacted policies are not unfairly biased against people of color. Dismantling systemic racism is a huge task and cannot be achieved without our listening to each other and keeping it top of mind in our daily choices.
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?
Nobody should ever have to choose between their health and their right to vote. However, Connecticut has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. During my outreach to voters these past few weeks, the vast majority have reported how pleased they are to have the option to vote more conveniently. The reasons vary - a busy work schedule, several small children at home, chronic pain, no car, and so on - but one thing is clear, more people will vote if they have options. To restrict our voting to one 14-hour timeframe disenfranchises this right for many residents and puts Connecticut behind almost every other state in the country. It is very important in this coming session that the state legislature work to begin the process to implement early voting and consider additional measures such as automatic voter registration and the ability to apply online for an absentee ballot application. These measures will not only make voting more accessible, but safer should the pandemic continue.
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?
What is one specific policy you support to help protect African Americans as an at-risk group during the pandemic?
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?
In preparing for the possibility of future pandemics, it is imperative that everyone has access to adequate health care. Within the United States healthcare system, this also means access to health insurance. Hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and along with it, their health insurance or they are facing steep insurance bills to maintain their coverage through COBRA. In March, Access Health CT opened a special enrollment period to allow those without insurance a chance to enroll, but we need affordable healthcare for all Connecticut residents, which is why I support a public option to allow individuals the chance to have insurance separate from their employment, and to give small businesses and nonprofits a more affordable option. It is also crucial that we seek to create policies that eliminate the stigma and coverage gap around mental health. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that over 30% of adults are now reporting symptoms associated with anxiety or depressive disorder due to COVID-19. Other measures such as the continuation of telemedicine and lowering prescription drug costs should be non-partisan. Connecticut residents agree that costs are too high.
How can Connecticut lower healthcare costs while also improving quality and access to care?