Day two of the Walk Across Connecticut started in South Windsor with a Red Bull in hand. I’m not proud of the fact that I drink Red Bull –– but I’m not a coffee drinker, and I need something to wake me up in the morning.

A bit up the road from where I started, I met Richard, who owns 3D Barbershop in East Hartford. He helps look after the neighborhood. When we spoke, he was worried about a fire in the building next door that sent one elderly man to the hospital last night. We are grateful for all the Richards around our state.

Next, I ran into Rachel and the 105.9 team giving away free Patriots tickets at Dunkin’ Donuts in East Hartford. I think they were a little offended when I refused to enter the raffle (for those that don’t know, I’m a big Giants fan).

Down the road, I caught up with Rohan Freeman. Rohan is developing workforce housing on a long underdeveloped site in my neighborhood in Hartford. A true believer in the future of the city.

In Hartford’s south end, I met Aretha. Let me tell you her story to provide some color on the reality of the new post-pandemic economy.

For years, she worked as a food service worker at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Wethersfield. It was a good-paying, full-time job, just a bus ride from her home.

Last year, when DMV employees began working from home, she got laid off.

Aretha liked that job, so she stayed on unemployment — hoping she would be rehired. But when that didn’t happen, she started furiously looking for work. Sure, she still had unemployment, but she wanted to work. Especially since she knew unemployment insurance wasn’t forever.

But she found that when she got offered jobs, it was for far less than she made at the DMV and mostly it was for less than 40 hours a week.

“I need five days a week to pay my bills,” she told me.

So Aretha is still out of work. She applies for jobs every day, but she needs a job that pays a living wage, not a job that keeps her in poverty while making her ineligible for unemployment insurance or SNAP. In short, she needs work to pay. And right now, it doesn’t.

Lunch called for hot dogs. And my friend King makes a damn good dog. But the pandemic shut down his stand for a year, and he didn’t get out here until June this summer. So he’s going to bundle up and try to stay open until November. Always impressed by how people are hustling to make ends meet.

Many miles later, I finished the day with a small, impromptu town hall at Elm Ridge Park in Rocky Hill. I answered questions on the climate crisis, the out-of-control cost of higher education, protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, immigration, and more. And there was a lot of enthusiasm in the crowd for the Build Back Better agenda.

Another amazing day. Ready to hit the road again tomorrow.

U.S. Senator, Connecticut