The new state budget passed by the Connecticut legislature will include funding to assist teachers and other essential workers who contracted COVID-19 in the course of their work—a move praised by CEA and other unions representing affected employees.
“Connecticut educators kept students learning throughout the pandemic,” said CEA President Jeff Leake, adding that some contracted COVID-19 on the job. “Many of these educators continue to suffer from the personal effects of coronavirus and resulting illnesses and are not receiving the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. This new fund to be administered by the state comptroller’s office is an important step to ensuring our teachers and other essential workers receive lost wages and reimbursement for medical expenses related to their COVID illness. We thank legislators, especially Senator Julie Kushner and Representative Robyn Porter, who supported this bill that provides the necessary benefits and economic support for our essential workers and their families.”
The budget containing the Connecticut Essential Workers COVID-19 Assistance Fund awaits the governor’s signature.
Noting that the fund will help potentially thousands of frontline workers who contracted the novel coronavirus on the job through no fault of their own, often experiencing out-of-pocket medical expenses and lost wages, Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano said, “Throughout the pandemic, the state has required our essential workers to continue to show up to work every day, sometimes without adequate personal protective equipment. And they have. The least Connecticut can do is take care of them when they get sick.”
Unions also recognized Comptroller Kevin Lembo for agreeing to administer the fund.
“When several agencies refused to take on this responsibility,” Luciano said, “Lembo stepped up, because he understands the importance of taking care of Connecticut’s essential workers.”
Rochelle Palache, vice president of 32BJ SEIU and head of the union in Connecticut, which represents custodians and security officers, added, “Although we’re disappointed that a workers’ compensation COVID presumption did not pass the full legislature, the funding provided for essential workers struck by COVID will be a tremendous benefit for some who have suffered the worst in this pandemic. We thank the legislature and Comptroller Lembo for supporting these essential workers and their families through a healing process that has only just begun.”
“Across Connecticut, essential workers showed incredible determination and bravery throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” noted Jody Barr, executive director of Council 4 AFSCME, which represents school paraprofessionals, corrections officers, and others, more than 1,500 of whom contracted coronavirus on the job. Barr pointed out that many employees who put themselves in harm’s way to serve the public now face uncertain health outcomes as a result. “They deserve to be compensated for their lost wages and healthcare claims,” she said.
While emphasizing that more needs to be done to help teachers and others, the unions acknowledged state legislators and the comptroller for recognizing the sacrifices made by essential employees and standing with them in their time of need.