COVID-19 Proposals

Coronavirus Response for Connecticut’s Working Families

Much like measures they have taken to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect the health of Connecticut residents, Governor Lamont and the General Assembly can do a great deal to help workers who are facing increased health and safety concerns and aid workers who are feeling the adverse economic impacts of the virus.

Responses that may require legislative action:

State and Municipal Employees

  • Require municipalities and boards of education to continue paying all municipal and board of education workers, including contracted workers, such as school bus drivers and monitors.  Municipal and board of education budgets have been passed and are funded.  If not for the virus, these workers would have been working and the money is there to pay them.
  • Ensure that hourly, 10-month workers employed directly by local boards of education (e.g. paraprofessionals) and those employed by contractors who provide contracted services to local board of education (e.g. school bus drivers and monitors), qualify for unemployment benefits.
  • Require state colleges and universities to continue paying all workers, including contracted workers, such as cafeteria workers.  Universities have budgets that have been passed and are funded, and workers should not bear the costs of decisions to refund students for meal plans.

  • Prohibit boards of education from requiring school nurses to report to school buildings when students are not present during the public health emergency.

  • Immediately ramp up staffing, training and IT resources at the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Services Division so that unemployment insurance claims and appeals can be processed in a timely manner, ensuring that workers in need receive benefits as quickly as possible.

  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for Department of Transportation personnel, service and maintenance staff in all agencies and Department of Correction personnel. In the absence of employer-provided PPE, allow workers to wear masks and other protective equipment they may provide themselves.

  • Require state agencies and municipalities to quickly inform employees when a co-worker has tested positive for COVID-19 so they may isolate themselves to prevent further spread.

Unemployment Insurance

  • Ensure that those filing for unemployment do not see a reduction in their benefits because their base period includes quarters during which hours were lost due to worksite shutdowns related to the coronavirus.
  • Expand the dollar amount and duration of unemployment benefits during the crisis.
  • Ensure that the Unemployment Trust Fund is solvent by adding additional funds from the state’s budget reserve fund and/or available federal stimulus funds and loans.

Paid Leave

  • Implement paid family and medical leave as quickly as possible using the state’s budget reserve fund and/or available federal stimulus funds and loans.
  • Expand the state’s paid sick days law by providing workers additional sick leave and extending it to all workers when the Governor declares a state of emergency.
  • Ensure that employers do not discipline, terminate or otherwise retaliate against workers who utilize sick time, FMLA, disability, unemployment or any other benefit to which they are entitled during a public health emergency.

Health and Safety

  • Ensure that employers do not discipline, terminate or otherwise retaliate against workers who decline to work additional hours or cannot be mandated to work additional hours because they are sick or caring for someone who is sick during a public health emergency.
  • Waive unforeseen costs by employees forced onto COBRA or Husky as a result of the coronavirus.
  • Hold frontline workers (childcare workers, DCF employees, juvenile justice professionals, etc.) harmless from liability of any kind when they must make timely decisions about the welfare of those in their charge in a public health crisis.
  • Adopt Airborne Pathogen workplace standards under Connecticut Occupational Health and Safety Laws which would be binding on all public employers and provide guidance for private employers (only Federal OSHA can create a standard that binds private employers).

Healthcare Workers

  • Provide healthcare workers protection from employer retaliation.  As they are being asked to work more shifts with dwindling PPE and continually changing guidance from the CDC, healthcare workers are scared.  They are afraid they won't be protected and get infected, their patients will be infected and their families will be infected.  They need protections against employer retaliation and termination if they decline to work extra hours.
  • Ensure that frontline healthcare, public safety and law enforcement personnel are covered by workers' compensation by creating a presumption that if they contract COVID-19, they did so by performing their job duties and are therefore eligible.
  • Ensure that all direct patient care healthcare workers receive hazard pay, equal to a minimum of one and one-half of their regular hourly wage, for all hours worked during a public health emergency.
  • Ensure that any healthcare worker who is required to self-isolate or self-quarantine due to suspected COVID-19 symptoms; or who tests positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, receives 100% paid leave for the time they are unable to work.
  • Deem licensed acupuncturists essential because the treatments they provide serve to boost immunological resistance to the coronavirus.

Responses that may be addressed through executive action:

  • Properly fund and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care, public safety and law enforcement personnel, and staff nursing homes and hospitals to respond to increased patient volume and comply with health and safety protocols.
  • Expand child care opportunities and provide funding for health care workers to ensure they can report to work.
  • Establish a moratorium on sales of nursing homes, hospitals and other health care facilities during a public health emergency.
  • Fund fiscal intermediaries that contract with the state to ensure that payroll services for low-wage home care workers are not interrupted and provide an outlet to solve any payroll issues within 24 hours.
  • Ensure that state agencies are in fact implementing the Governor’s executive order to telecommute to the greatest extent possible.
  • Designate retail, grocery and food processing workers as first responders and mandate employers to provide childcare and at least two weeks of paid leave.
  • Re-open the Department of Public Health’s licensure office and allow other agencies to perform required background checks to enable to state hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities to hire more nurses, CNAs and other healthcare professionals.
  • Create strategies to ensure all residents have access to adequate food and shelter throughout this public health emergency.