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  • The Narrative Project

With a $5M Goal in Mind, ConnCAT Launches Fund to Support Black-Owned Businesses & Wealth Creation


July 1, 2020 Mercy A. Quaye

New Haven, CT – After pledging to raise $600,000 over the course of six months to offer direct financial assistance to the Dixwell and Newhallville communities in the wake of COVID-19, the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) today announced the launch of their Economic Justice Fund with a $5 Million Goal to Support Black-Owned Businesses in New Haven. Given the state of the nation’s current moment of racial unrest and economic instability, the ConnCAT Crisis Committee has issued a mandate to invest in Black communities in pursuit of racial justice. According to Brookings, at $171,000, the median net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family, which was $17,150 in 2016. As such, the pivot to long term community investment is the result of re-assessing the need that presently exists in the Black community during and after COVID-19 and understanding that intergenerational wealth creation is the best path to racial economic justice. Now, with more clarity on how long the pandemic will last and which communities will be impacted the most, ConnCAT is committed to providing support for Black-owned businesses that have reportedly had the hardest time securing pandemic support from the federal government through the Payroll Protection Program and other SBA support. As such, ConnCAT is in the process of developing a business grant program, identifying eligibility requirements, and creating an application process to ensure an efficient and impactful investment into the community. Further recognizing the connection between homeownership and wealth creation, ConnCAT is prioritizing a portion of the funds raised for support to homeowners seeking to buy in Dixwell and Newhallville. “Right now our commitment has to be bold and swift,” said Erik Clemons, ConnCAT President & CEO. “Without significant support from major donors, the impact of racism and poverty may be irrevocably worsened during pandemic recovery efforts. We know that race and zip code have been determinants of individual and family success for far too long. That’s why we’re committed to investing in direct aid as well as systems-change to ensure long term success and self-sufficiency for those who need it most.” As of June 30, 2020, ConnCAT’s Crisis Relief Fund has distributed 750 debit cards to families suffering the impacts of COVID-19, totaling $300,000. These funds have gone toward supporting New Haven's most vulnerable families with securing their most basic needs – food, medication, rent, utilities, transportation – through the summer and into fall. During the first three months of the Crisis Relief Fund, ConnCAT was dedicated to giving money directly to New Haven’s most underserved communities, and the impact of those efforts brought much-needed support to low-income families. Now, the entrepreneurial-focused community organization is pursuing avenues to support black-owned businesses and promote homeownership in the black community. “We’re investing in the long game of sustainable wealth generation because our community deserves any support we can offer,” Clemons said. While the program details are not fully cemented, members of the ConnCAT Crisis Committee said increasing fundraising efforts is the first step to meeting this new goal. “When we announced our first goal of $600,000 we had such an outpouring of generous gifts from small and major donors throughout the state,” said Anna Blanding, ConnCAT’s Director of Impact Investments. “What COVID-19 and the George Floyd protests have demonstrated is racial justice and economic justice are inextricably linked. The racial wealth gap has long been studied and just as compound interest accrues, so have historic disadvantages. We know that asset ownership, businesses as well as homes, is a key path to wealth creation. It is time we realize our communities as places of vibrancy, business innovation, wealth creation, and hope. As we enter this next phase, we’ll continue to pursue impact gifts from individuals and organizations who want to support the effort of direct financial assistance to families and businesses that need it the most.” “The inclusion of grants for homeownership is so key to this initiative. Homeownership is the primary source of wealth creation in any community, however, the Black community has historically been blocked from this means of wealth creation,” said Karen DuBois-Walton, President of Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven. “This has resulted in the low homeownership rates in Newhallville (26%) and Dixwell (15%) neighborhoods. ConnCAT’s Justice Fund offers a pathway to wealth creation through homeownership.” ConnCAT has already met its initial goal of $600,000, an effort made possible through the support of Yale University, The William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, Craig Crews and Katherine McKenzie, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Arvinas, Seedlings Foundation, New Alliance Foundation, and Dalio Philanthropies, as well as support from more than 200 individual donors representing every neighborhood in New Haven, Connecticut at-large, and nationally. Efforts to disperse funds directly to communities have been coordinated with support from Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of New Haven to target Section 8 recipients and HANH waitlists. Each selected recipient has received $400 via VISA/Mastercard gift cards. Early data collected from Crisis Relief Fund recipients reveal that the majority of the funding is being used for utilities, housing, and groceries. A total of 75% of respondents to an opt-in survey said they lost household income due to the pandemic and 84.4% of respondents self-reported as ‘low-income,’ making less than $25,000 a year. For this next phase of community investment, ConnCAT is calling on small and major donors to join their efforts to support the community. In addition to securing partnerships from major donors, ConnCAT is encouraging individuals who are able to donate personally meaningful gifts, to do so with the information listed below:

  • Make a donation online at

  • Send a check payable to ConnCAT, referencing the ConnCAT Crisis Relief Fund. Please send to ConnCAT, 4 Science Park, New Haven, CT 06511

For questions, please contact Anna Blanding, Director of Impact Investments at

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About ConnCAT ConnCAT provides job-training programs intended to give unemployed and under-employed adults the skills needed to secure meaningful, well-paying jobs in the health sciences and culinary professions. ConnCAT provides adults with the academic support needed to succeed in the programs. Career preparation is linked with the hospitality industry and corporate partners who assist in the design of the training. Our mission is to inspire, motivate, and prepare youth and adults for educational and career advancement, through after-school arts, and job training programming. Our vision is to create a learning environment that inspires hope, innovation, creativity, and excellence while providing a path for individuals to revitalize the landscape of the urban community.

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