Community Conversation Shares Accessible Financial & Technical Business Resources

CT Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic Stability is vital to affording lifestyle choices and paying for quality medical care that keeps people healthy. A well-paying, steady job is critical for food security and housing stability. Savings are essential for managing chronic conditions or emergencies.

Three years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Connecticut small businesses and nonprofits continue to recover—with a disproportionate impact on organizations in historically underserved communities that tend to face more barriers in accessing federal resources.

CT Latino News partnered with the CT Small Business Boost Fund to produce an informational presentation on free resources available to small businesses and nonprofits across the state.

The virtual event was released on Facebook and Youtube Wednesday evening.

Originally planned as a hybrid event at the Hartford Public Library’s Park Street Branch, CTLN transitioned the event to be completely online to accommodate accessibility and health & safety concerns.

CTLN Writer/Editor Belén Dumont moderated the event and briefly spoke on a few local support networks that provide free online resources and offer funding specifically to women and minority-owned organizations.

Sheila Hummel, Director of the Small Business Development Office within the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, shared available financial resources for small businesses and nonprofits across the state.

She highlighted the CT Small Business Boost Fund for its advertised accessible and flexible loans, before answering a few common questions from applicants.

“The focus is really on deploying to small businesses and nonprofits in underserved markets and [to] women, people of color, people with disabilities, and veteran-owned businesses,” she explained.

Hummel also emphasized the importance of technical assistance, explaining where businesses can find this support—for free.

“These organizations will help you build the capacity of your organization,” Hummel said. “[Technical Assistance] kind of provides you with, if you have a development need or a problem in your business, or you need help with your financials…they’re there to help you.”

The online event then featured highlights from Capital For Change Earl Randall’s appearance on CTLN Opinion+.

Director Randall of Small Business Lending explained how his work looks to specifically support businesses in local underserved communities. He also emphasized the role that accessible loan programs play within the state’s economy.

“At Capital For Change, we understand that and we try to structure our programs such that we have some degree of flexibility to account for that,â€� Randall said. “That’s really our core focus, to…help the minority community to provide some degree of fairness and equity, we want the capital to flow to communities that have not had capital provided to them.â€� 

Randall also spoke on Capital For Change’s role within the CT Small Business Boost Program, and how his team looks to support interested applicants.

“We encourage any interested businesses to call our office or email our office. My team is charged with reaching out directly via a call, more likely, to get some indication as to what their needs are,� Randall said. “Our objective is to provide some degree of counseling or guidance such that they can ask us questions before the formal application process.�

Access The Statewide Resources for CT Small Businesses Presentation Below:

Contact Director Sheila Hummel of the Small Business Development Office at

Contact CTLN Writer/Editor Belén Dumont at

Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News is a partner of the CT Small Business Boost Fund in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities.

Home Inspection Business Owner Benefited From Early Days at SCOW

WALLINGFORD — Growing up in Wallingford in the late-1990s through the early 2000s, there weren’t a lot of Latinos like Octavio Dominguez, who’s of Mexican origin.

However, it wasn’t until Dominguez started attending the Spanish Community of Wallingford’s programs that he was able to find his community and build a foundation for his future career endeavors such as his own home inspection business, Grizzly Home Inspections, and his record label, Resalta Records, at only 25 years old.

“Growing up in Wallingford as a Latino, there weren’t a lot of Latinos there,� Domingez said. “All the Latinos that were there, we were pretty united … SCOW helped form the big part of that because there were a lot of people from our same town (in Mexico) that we wouldn’t know and wouldn’t hang out with until SCOW. We started building friendships through them.�

Read the full story by the Record-Journal’s Latino Communities Lab at:

Publisher’s Note: CTLatinoNews partners with the Latino Communities Reporting Lab in best serving the Hispanic-Latino communities of Connecticut.

Community Conversation: Local Resources for Small Businesses & Nonprofits

Mark your calendars for March 22—Community Conversation: Local Resources for Small Businesses & Nonprofits.

CT Latino News is hosting the informational event in partnership with the CT Small Business Boost Fund on public financial and technical resources for small businesses and nonprofits across Connecticut.

The in-person event will be at the Hartford Public Library, Park Street Branch at The Lyric, and live streamed on Facebook at @CT Latino News. 

Small businesses and nonprofits across Connecticut continue to be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, three years after its arrival. Although a few federal programs have been available to CT organizations, those in underserved communities typically have more difficulty accessing these services. 

In CT, Hispanics make up 15.6 percent of the state’s workforce but only nine percent owned businesses, according to a 2021 report by the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. 

This event—moderated by CTLN Writer/Editor Belen Dumont—will cover a variety of local resources that look to be more user-friendly and specifically support organizations in underserved communities.

One resource includes the CT Small Business Boost Fund, which is “specifically geared to provide low-interest financing to businesses with the emphasis on small businesses throughout Connecticut,� Earl Randall of Capital for Change told CTLN.

“The general gist is to provide funding to businesses, quite frankly, that have not had the opportunity to take advantage of some of the federal programs,� Randall said. 

Register ahead HERE.

CTLN Opinion+: Earl Randall

Welcome to another episode of CTLN Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Connecticut. 

This week we spoke with Earl Randall from Capital for Change on the pandemic’s continuous impact on local organizations along with resources for small businesses and nonprofits in underserved communities. 

Capital for Change works throughout Connecticut in a variety of areas as the organization is “dedicated to providing flexible, creative, and responsive financial products and services that support an inclusive and sustainable economy,â€� reads its mission statement. 

As the Director of Programs & Small Business Lending, Earl oversees and collaborates on a variety of programs—including MyHomeCT and the Westville Program—that look to support homeowners, landlords, growing organizations, and other residents across Connecticut. 

Randall explained that Capital for Change has previously participated in small business programs, but in 2022 the organization decided to re-enter the small business arena in a new and effective way. 

In August 2022, Capital for Change officially became a lender under the CT Small Business Boost Fund—a private-public partnership between the Department of Economic and Community Development, the National Development Council, and more. 

“The program is specifically geared to provide low-interest financing to businesses with the emphasis on small businesses throughout Connecticut,â€� Randall explained. “The general gist is to provide funding to businesses, quite frankly, that have not had the opportunity to take advantage of some of the federal programs.â€�  

There are two major factors that make the Fund unique and distinctive from other loan programs, Randall said in the interview. 

“The interest rate currently on CT Boost Loans is 4.5 percent, which is tremendous, relative to current interest rates,â€� Randall shared. “The other distinctive feature of the program is that it is not a collaterally designated program. Normally, when businesses apply for loans, the first or second question the lender will say is ‘what is your collateral?’…The objective is to make it as user-friendly as possible.â€� 

Randall’s department first gathers information from interested applicants about their organization and what their specific needs are. His team then coaches and guides the applicant through the application process. 

“We encourage any interested businesses to call our office or email our office. My team is charged with reaching out directly via a call, more likely, to get some indication as to what their needs are,� Randall said. “Our objective is to provide some degree of counseling or guidance such that they can ask us questions before the formal application process.�

Randall also spoke on the various barriers many small businesses and nonprofits face and how accommodating services are crucial to support these growing organizations. 

“At Capital For Change, we understand that and we try to structure our programs such that we have some degree of flexibility to account for that,â€� Randall said. “That’s really our core focus, to…help the minority community to provide some degree of fairness and equity, we want the capital to flow to communities that have not had capital provided to them.â€� 

Resources mentioned in this video: 

Increasing small business prosperity and employment opportunities

Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival, small businesses and nonprofits across the state continue to be disproportionately impacted. 

Although public resources have been available to local businesses, those in underserved communities typically have more difficulty accessing these opportunities.

Seeing as minority-owned and led organizations faced a variety of challenges before the pandemic, accessible resources have become more crucial than ever. 

In CT, Hispanics make up 15.6 percent of the state’s workforce but only nine percent owned businesses, according to a 2021 report by the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. 

Associate Lending Manager of the National Development Council Jovanna Mejia was this month’s guest on the Latino News Network podcast, “3 Questions With…�, to speak on specific barriers minority entrepreneurs face and unique resources available to them.

The National Development Council is a national nonprofit that has served all 50 states for over 50 years. The NDC works with local and state governments along with community-based organizations to direct capital that will support their local communities in a variety of ways.

Local entrepreneurs have shared their concerns and struggles with Mejia, emphasizing economic barriers, limited opportunities for further skill development, and employee retention rates.

“Many business owners find it difficult to participate in training and educational opportunities,� Mejia has learned. “However, these opportunities…could help the entrepreneurship gap and increase small business prosperity and employment opportunities.�

The educational level of business owners tends to correlate with business success, Mejia pointed out.

On employee retention rates, Mejia explained that because of the abundance of jobs, employees now sort of have their pickings and many may think that the grass is greener at another job. 

“So, this makes it very difficult for recruitment and retention for any business – yet alone a small business,â€� she said. “Small businesses already specifically struggle to match the benefits and pay that larger companies provide.â€� 

On the other hand, small businesses offer benefits that larger companies do not. Mejia said this includes flexible work schedules, a family culture, mentorship, loyalty, and the willingness to try new things and be innovative. 

The CT Small Business Boost Fund is a loan program that was launched in June, with the NDC as a participating lender, to specifically support minority entrepreneurs. 

The loan program “offers flexible credit parameters — so, a lower cash flow requirement and no collateral requirement [so that] historically underserved businesses can gain access to capital when otherwise they would not be able to do so,� Mejia explained. “This is critical as it helps to tear down historical barriers and allows businesses to build capacity over time.�

She emphasized that approved applicants are matched with a knowledgeable lender who will get to know them and their organization, and guide them through the application and approval process. 

“This process should allow business owners, especially minority business owners, to not only gain a loan approval but also understand a loan application process for the next time they apply for a loan through either a CDFI or a bank,� she said.

“The Connecticut economy can’t thrive without the good services and job opportunities provided by our small businesses and nonprofits,â€� Mejia said. 

Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News covers the social determinants of health—among the state’s diverse Hispanic-Latino populations. Economic stability and housing security are essential to one’s life and well-being.

CT Latino News is a partner of the CT Small Business Boost Fund in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities.

New Hartford Play Features All Latinx Cast and Creative Team

HARTFORD—Theatergoers can expect a striking new play featuring an all Latinx cast and creative team beginning this Friday. 

Queen of Basel takes place within the Latinx community during Miami’s Art Basel as an adaptation of August Strindberg’s classic play, Miss Julie.

“I couldn’t be more excited to make my TheaterWorks Hartford debut with a play showcasing such vivid, flawed, and imperfect characters with a dynamic, female protagonist at its core,� Director Cristina Angeles commented. “Latinx stories are rarely seen on stage, and I hope this is just the beginning of a much longer conversation surrounding our varied, lived experiences, and the art that is created as a result.�

Written by Playwright Hilary Bettis, Queen of Basel will run February 3-26 at TheaterWork Hartford’s historic property at 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT. 

The play will also steam on demand from February 19-26. 

“When planning the 2022-2023 season, I felt it was essential to include a story that speaks to our Latin community,� Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero shared. “It’s human, it’s raw, it’s completely compelling — and it’s in that engagement that we are also provoked into important conversations about privilege, race, power, and color.�

Set in Miami’s Art Basel, the performance follows real estate heiress Julie after she tangles with her mogul father during an event thrown at his South Beach hotel.

“Julie plots her next move…with Christine, a waitress who recently fled violence in Venezuela, and Christine’s fiancé John, an Uber driver with ambitions,� reads the press release. “This explosive elixir of power, class, and race within the Latinx community examines the timelessness of love and betrayal in this bold new play.�

The cast features actors Silvia Dionicio as Christine, Kelvin Grullon as John, and Christine Spang as Julie.

Queen of Basel is recommended for those over the age of 18 as it contains strong language and adult content. 

In-person tickets range from $25 – $65 and can be purchased online at or by calling (860)527-7838. The theater’s COVID-19 Policy is also available at

TheaterWorks Hartford and CT Latino News have partnered to host a weekly ticket giveaway throughout the play’s run. 

Every Wednesday at noon, a trivia question will be posted via one of CTLN’s social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The first person to submit the correct answer at wins TWO tickets. 

Learn more about the contest HERE.

Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News is proud to partner with TheaterWorks Hartford in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities. 

Ticket Giveaway Contest

CT Latino News (CTLN) is proud to partner with TheaterWorks Hartford in presenting Queen of Basel, making its New England premiere on Feb. 3-26.

Queen of Basel, written by Hilary Bettis and directed by Cristina Angeles, is an adaptation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie set within the Latinx community during Miami’s Art Basel.

Cast of Queen Of Basel: Christine Spang (Julie), Kelvin Grullon (John), Silvia Dionicio (Christine)

You can find out more about the play and how to get tickets by clicking HERE. Also, you have an opportunity to win tickets each week, for the run of the show.


Every Wednesday at Noon EST, you will get a chance to win two tickers by being the first person to correctly answer a trivia question.

The first question will be shared at Noon EST via CTLN’s Facebook page on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.

Participants will have 30 minutes to send their answer to

The first person to send the correct answer to the trivia question, wins two tickets and will be notified by CTLN on how to collect them

Please note TheaterWorks Hartford will try to accommodate tickets for the winners’ preferred performance as best as possible (based on availability).


CT Latino News produces and amplifies stories and initiatives focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Social and Community Context refers to the settings in which people live and work, and it includes relationships between people, as well as the connections between people and institutions (social, religious, cultural, and occupational).

After Stillbirth, Undocumented Woman Organizes Partnership To Help Others Find Better Care

When Laura Garcia was pregnant with her third child, a boy she named Matias, she had symptoms that made her uneasy. Her nails turned purple, her feet were swollen and she was vomiting. Undocumented and uninsured, she sought care in a community clinic.

“They told me it’s normal,� said Garcia of Norwalk.

But one day in her 39th week of pregnancy, as she returned home from work, she could no longer feel the baby moving. She asked her husband to take her to the hospital.

“And when I get there, they told me, ‘I’m sorry, but your son has no heartbeat.’�

It was confirmation of Garcia’s worst fear. Now, she faced delivering a stillborn child. She pushed for four hours, but she began to weaken, and doctors told her husband they were fearful for her life. Then, finally, Matias was delivered by cesarean section. The experience left her devastated and angry that her concerns had been ignored.

“I have many symptoms. I told the doctors. I explained them. I complained. They never listened to me; my baby died, and I almost died,� she said.

She believes some of that lack of care was because she is an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala.

“I don’t have exactly the words for how you feel being a brown woman, but I feel like I don’t have the same rights,� Garcia said. “I feel like I don’t have the same value as white women and that they don’t care about us.�

The loss of her son left her determined to act so that other women in her situation might not suffer the same way. Garcia began a partnership with providers and other undocumented women to provide educational workshops on reproductive rights and accessing quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth.

“The situation that happened to me showed me I need to speak up,� she said.

Fielding Questions

At a Zoom workshop on a Sunday night in November, Dr. Daisy León-Martínez let participants know they could have their video on or off. “Remember, this event is a conversation,� she said in Spanish. “It is an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other. So, I invite you to put questions in the chat if you like, or you can also talk in person.�

León-Martínez, who did her OB-GYN residency and then a fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine at Yale University, ran down the list of topics for the evening: fertility, infertility treatment and birth control.

After her slide presentation, there was no shortage of questions, from birth control and side effects to menopause. One woman said that in her home country, a husband’s consent is necessary to obtain birth control; could the doctor clarify if this is the case here? Another wanted to know at what age she should talk to her daughter about birth control.

León-Martínez is now based in California, where she’s moved to be part of the faculty at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California San Francisco. However, she still makes time for these Connecticut events on Zoom.

“Interspersed in every session, there’s usually some message about advocacy and patient rights,� she said. “There is a lot about reproductive care that is in the control of the individual, and it should be that way.�

A little later in the session, another woman spoke up. She explained that she was 26 weeks pregnant and frequently passed blood in her urine. She had been told she should see a specialist, but despite her best efforts, she couldn’t get an appointment for another month.

León-Martínez expressed concern. “Send your information by private message,� she said. “Tomorrow, we’ll see if we can make an appointment for you at another clinic.�

“A lot of times things will come up like today where we have someone who has been experiencing warning symptoms, and she hasn’t been able to find an appointment.â€� 

— Rebeca Vergara Greeno,

Yale medical student and

workshop health coordinator

“And so, we end up trying to work backward and talk to different providers to find her the help that she needs,� she said.

Emergency Room Meeting

Vergara first met Garcia in November of 2020, not long after Garcia had lost her baby.

Garcia had traveled to New Haven for care at the HAVEN free clinic, a primary care facility run by Yale Medical School students where Vergara was the director at the time.

“She ended up needing hospitalization because of postpartum symptoms,� Vergara said. “And so that’s where things began. We talked in the emergency room while we were waiting for her to be attended to, and she shared with me her vision for wanting to start some sort of workshop for women who just don’t have the same access to health services and reproductive services.�

The first workshop convened in March 2021, just a few months after Garcia’s loss.

“Which speaks to really her commitment to this cause,� said León-Martínez, “and to her ability to turn something so negative into something fruitful for her community.�

“If the change is going to come in a way that is productive, it needs to come from the community that is affected,� she said. “I really commend the people who are doing all of the legwork on their own time—when they’re working two jobs and going to school in the evenings and balancing childcare—because they believe in their community and in the value that they hold.�

Estimates derived from census bureau data put Connecticut’s undocumented population at a total of around 113,000 of whom as many as 43,000 may be women of child-bearing age.

Community Connections

To reach women, Garcia sought help from a nonprofit that organizes domestic workers in Stamford, Nosotras CT.  Founder and longtime activist Carla Esquivel and training and development coordinator Tamara Nuñez del Prado immediately saw the opportunity.

Garcia hands out food, drinks and flowers to Yaritea Garcia who brought her daughters. Emily, 4, and Sophia, 4 months. Melanie Stengel Photo.

Nuñez del Prado, Esquivel and Garcia hosted focus groups to find out what women in the undocumented community wanted to hear. They also publicize the gatherings on social media and in person, passing out flyers along with food and other aid.

“Our organization is trying to give a voice to this community and advocate for more services—breast exams, for example, pap smears,� Esquivel said in Spanish. “When I tried to get these kinds of services, they did an assessment of my income and told me that my estimated cost for the care would be around $700. I did not have that much money.�

She says even one-time fees for appointments can add up to an insurmountable obstacle.

“Even if it’s a minimum payment of $30 or $40, they need that money for food and rent. And so, it’s not something that they can pay for—a medical visit, let alone multiple medical visits.�

But beyond the financial cost, there are other issues, said Nuñez del Prado. She acts as the community education lead for the initiative and runs sexuality and gender identity workshops as part of the series.

“Language is one of the primary barriers,� she said. “But also, not knowing how to navigate the system that is very consumerist in nature and views patients as clients. And so, there’s a sort of depersonalization towards the patient and their care.�

For instance, she said, if patients don’t have insurance, they’re offered fewer options for their care. The patients don’t know their rights and struggle to advocate for themselves.

Gaps In Care

León-Martínez said that when she was practicing in Connecticut, she saw many gaps in the health care safety net firsthand.

Dr. Daisy León-Martínez

“The health care system is currently not built to be accessed by all people equally,� she said. “I spent a big chunk of my day trying to coordinate care personally for patients because I was aware that there were barriers that they were not going to be able to surpass. I spent probably more time doing that than actually counseling patients.�

That could mean coordinating with a social worker to get someone a taxi voucher so they can visit an appropriate specialist. It could mean helping someone who is illiterate to fill out application forms for financial assistance. León-Martínez said there were many times when she had to come in on her day off because she was the only Spanish-speaking provider.

Advances In Care

The undocumented community won important health care advances in recent years. Garcia, Nuñez del Prado and Esquivel have all testified before the legislature on bills that affect their community. The biggest win came with the passage of a measure that, as of April 1, 2022, made undocumented women eligible for prenatal care and, as of April 2023, will provide one year of postpartum coverage under Medicaid.

León-Martínez says the changes in Connecticut will result in improvements for many, including those who need additional care after pregnancy.

Garcia said that while insurance coverage is a welcome step forward in many instances, there still can be disconnects.

“I’ve been calling for one woman who’s pregnant and asking for an OB-GYN for her, but they say they don’t have any more space for people with HUSKY,� she said.

Garcia and the others continue advocating for change at the legislature and are working to educate their community.

Ask what solution she’s seeking, and she has a ready answer.

“In my dreams, it’s free health care for everyone, but I believe something impossible, right?� Garcia said with a laugh.

Nuñez del Prado responded. “I don’t think there are any impossibilities,� she said, “just longer roads towards progress.�

After Stillbirth, Undocumented Woman Organizes Partnership To Help Others Find Better Care was first published on Connecticut Health I-Team.

Publisher’s Note:  CTLN and collaborate to best serve Connecticut’s Hispanic, Latino communities.

New Loan Program Looks to Support Latino Small Businesses & Nonprofits

CT Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic Stability is vital to affording lifestyle choices and paying for quality medical care that keeps people healthy. A well-paying, steady job is critical for food security and housing stability. Savings are essential for managing chronic conditions or emergencies.

Connecticut’s public and private sectors are working together to provide flexible and accessible loans to over 100 small business owners and nonprofit leaders across the state’s diverse communities. 

The Small Business Boost Fund was designed to address financial and technical barriers that specifically impact small businesses and nonprofits from marginalized communities, said Director Sheila Hummel of CT Small Business Development Office.

“We’re trying to reach [residents] and get them help. Lots of times it’s technical assistance—helping you do your application or afterward too,� Hummel explained. “Maybe, after you get the loan, you’re having some cash flow problems or something else didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Now, you have someone to go to.�

The loans have a fixed 4.5 percent interest rate, ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 with 60- or 72-month repayment terms, depending on the loan amount. 

Eligible businesses and nonprofits must operate within Connecticut, have 100 or fewer full-time employees, an annual revenue of less than $8 million, and have been in operation for at least one year—although a small amount of financing is available for start-ups. 

“This fund was established to support small business owners who may have previously experienced barriers to accessing financial support and works with and through community lenders that are dedicated to equitable lending practices,� Governor Ned Lamont announced in a July press release

The program’s $150 million budget consists of a $75 million investment from the state while $75 million is being raised, coming from donations made by local banks, Hummel said. 

The majority of the budget is lent to the program’s businesses and nonprofits while a smaller portion funds technical assistance to applying businesses and nonprofits. 

Over a thousand businesses and nonprofits have applied to the program since its launch this summer, according to Hummel. The pre-application portal asks residents about 18 questions to either match them with a lender or technical advisor. 

All of the fund’s applications are available in multiple languages, including Spanish. Residents may also speak with multilingual staff to learn about the program or when applying.

More than 100 organizations have been matched with a lender that assists residents with the application process. Applicants who are first matched with technical advisors, receive feedback and support to enhance specific aspects of their businesses or nonprofits before applying to the program. 

“There are numerous different [reasons] for why you might not get matched up,� such as low credit scores or disorganized financial records, Hummel explained. “So then, you have the option of matching with technical assistance to help you be able to qualify for a loan. They’ll work with you and see what’s going on.�

Currently, about 60 percent of loans from the Small Business Boost Fund have been given to marginalized business owners and nonprofit leaders, including entrepreneurs who are women, veterans, people of color, people with disabilities, and members of LGBTQ+ communities. 

However, Hummel pointed out the importance of keeping intersectionality in mind, as her team increases that percentage. 

“Right now, we have nine Latino businesses that have been funded,â€� Hummel shared. “So, we want to increase that number and then look at where these loans are being funded. Maybe there’s not enough advertising [of the program] in Hartford…or Meriden.â€� 

The fund has worked with local chambers of commerce along with Hispanic and Latino nonprofit organizations to spread the word about its loans. 

“We’re constantly adjusting our outreach and marketing campaigns to reach a variety of diverse communities,� she said. “We’re doing ads in newspapers, radio spots in Spanish, we’re going to have [an informational] video in Spanish.�

Reaching marginalized communities can be a major challenge for many supportive programs and services, but establishing trust with residents from these vulnerable communities is another obstacle.

A few of the program’s seven lenders and local community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are known for their decades of experience “serving historically under-resources and underbanked communities�, according to the press release

Participating CDFIs include Ascendus, HEDCO, NDC Community Impact Loan Fund, Pursuit Lending, Southeastern CT Enterprise Region (SeCTer), and Capital for Change

Publisher’s Notes:

CT Latino News is a partner of the CT Small Business Boost Fund in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities.

CTLN sees the public as more than just the audience; you are contributors. To that end, please take our brief survey to help shape our coverage in producing stories on the social determinants of health: healthcare and quality, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, social and community context, and economic stability.


Race, Economics, Environment Continue To Drive State’s Asthma Disparities

Kamyle Dunn used to sleep with her hand resting on her mother’s chest so she could feel it expand and contract and know that her mom hadn’t stopped breathing during the night.

Dunn’s mother, Maria Cotto, has long had severe asthma. Dunn inherited the condition, though she has mostly grown out of it as an adult. Now, Dunn’s 12-year-old son also has severe asthma.

“People kind of shrug it off as not that big of a deal,� said Dunn, who lives with her family in East Harford. “But I see what it’s done to my mother, and I see what it’s doing to my son, and what it has done to me.�

In Connecticut, 10.6% of children and 10.5% of adults have asthma, according to state data from 2019.  According to DataHaven’s 2021 Community Wellbeing survey, 12% of adults have asthma.

Asthma does not impact all people equally.

“In the state of Connecticut, similarly to other states in the country, this condition disproportionately affects minority populations, including African Americans and Hispanics,â€� said Dr. Mario Perez, an assistant professor of medicine at UConn Health who studies asthma disparities and who Cotto sees for her asthma.

DataHaven’s survey found that 11% of white, 13% of Black, and 21% of Latino adults have asthma.

Economics also seems to play a role. Only 6% of adults in wealthy towns have asthma, while 16% of adults in cities like New Haven, Waterbury, Hartford and Bridgeport have the condition. In addition, 19% of adults earning less than $30,000 per year have asthma, compared to only 9% of those earning $100,000 per year.

“Residents in city centers are typically three to four times more likely to visit the emergency room with an asthma diagnosis than residents of outer suburban areas,� said Mark Abraham, executive director, DataHaven.

Air Quality And Geography

Connecticut has long been known as the “tailpipe of the nationâ€� due to pollution that drifts in from other states. The 2022 State of the Air report from the American Lung Association gave every Connecticut county a poor grade for ozone levels. Fairfield, Middlesex, New Haven and New London all received a grade of F, while Tolland and Windham counties received D grades, and Hartford and Litchfield were each given a C.

“We know that environmental factors, particularly factors such as air pollution, can be associated and contribute to the disease and to disease flare,� Perez said.

A 2009 study of New Haven County children recruited from the Yale Asthma Care Center found an increased risk of symptoms and inhaler use in children with asthma who had exposure to traffic-related fine particles.

Additionally, some research has suggested a link between crime and asthma rates, which highlights the need for healthier communities overall. “Having the sense that your neighborhood is more secure actually decreases the rate of asthma and asthma exacerbations,â€� Perez says.

City Risk Factors And Glimmers Of Hope

Robert Carmon shows off his basketball skills on the court off Glade Street near his West Haven home. His asthma has improved since he was diagnosed as an infant. [Melanie Stengel Photo.]

Robert Carmon, 11, who recently moved from New Haven to West Haven, developed asthma as an infant and was rushed to the hospital by his parents on a near-weekly basis during the early years of his life. Robert has improved since C-HIT first reported on him in 2018, but the condition still impacts his life. He’d like to play on the basketball team at school but can’t because he worries his asthma will flare up. “I can play pickup games as long as I don’t play too hard,â€� he said.

The frequency of his trips to the emergency room has decreased, but he still goes to the hospital about once every month or so, said Robert’s father, Chaz Carmon.

Stories such as Robert’s are common in Connecticut cities. In recent years they have ranked high in the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s annual Asthma Capitals Report, but this year saw marked improvement. Hartford moved from 17th worst to 69th on the list, Bridgeport dropped to 85th, from 29th in 2021, while New Haven dropped from 5th to 90th.

“New Haven saw the biggest positive jump in rank of all the 100 metropolitan statistical areas that we analyze,� said Hannah Jaffee, a research analyst with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.

However, people shouldn’t read too much into the improved rankings because this year’s list was created based on different data sources than previous years. For example, insurance claims were examined instead of the self-reported surveys used previously. In addition, more localized data was utilized rather than the county-level data used for the report in previous years.

Even still, Jaffee said, the three most populous counties have seen some improvement.

“When we do look at the county-level data that we previously used asthma prevalence rates for Fairfield, Hartford and New Haven county, they’ve all declined over the past five years,� she said. The death rate has also generally declined in those three counties over the past 20 years, Jaffee added.

Improving Asthma Rates

Proven strategies for reducing asthma incidence and severity include working to ensure all residents have access to culturally competent health care and improving indoor and outdoor air quality for those in cities.

“Asthma triggers can be mitigated through housing quality improvements like better air conditioning filters and education for families about what the triggers might be. If you’re running a gas stove for cooking, and you don’t have good ventilation, it’s producing a lot of air pollution inside.�

— Mark Abraham, executive director, DataHaven

The Connecticut Asthma Program is a state-run initiative attempting to decrease asthma disparities through partnerships with health care providers while providing education about the condition and expanding access to Connecticut’s asthma home visiting program. The state has also promoted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) EXHALE framework for asthma management.

Perez says that the most effective interventions will take place before a patient ever arrives in front of him. “I think we as a society have to address everything from the environmental pollution and climate that we’re creating as humans to improving education and access to health care, but also improving the socio-economic status of the population in general.�

In the meantime, some say more can be done individually to help those with asthma. For instance, while Robert’s current school allows him to keep his asthma pump on hand, he wasn’t allowed to do that in the past. “They always said you have to keep your bag in your locker,� he said. That could cause asthma attacks to get out of control before he could get to his pump.

His father adds that each school should have a nebulizer in the nurse’s office with staff trained to administer asthma medication. That way, a student “can be on the nebulizer at least until the parents get there,� Carmon says, and if the nebulizer helps enough, the student might be able to return to class.

Cotto says it’s important for medical staff to remember that each patient is different. Cotto horrifyingly learned this when she was given epinephrine during an emergency asthma flare. While the medication can be helpful to some patients, it nearly killed her.

“I’m allergic to it. When they administered it to me, my heart stopped,� she said. When this happened in 2013, she ended up in a coma for 22 days.

After Cotto’s coma, her asthma worsened, and she could not leave the house without oxygen for many years. In 2014 she began seeing Perez, who took the time to figure out her specific triggers and a treatment plan that worked for her. Though she struggles at times, her asthma is more under control than it has been in years.

“He tried a whole bunch of different medications and finally found one that works for me,â€� Cotto says. “I’m actually able to leave the house without oxygen.â€�  That’s something she hasn’t done for nearly a decade.

You can find out more about asthma in Connecticut and asthma management in general by visiting the following sites: 

Race, Economics, Environment Continue To Drive State’s Asthma Disparities was first published on Connecticut Health I-Team.

All photos by Melanie Stengel.

Publisher’s Note:  CTLN and collaborate to best serve the Connecticut Hispanic, Latino community.