A range of private sector workers from grocery store employees to emergency personnel would receive pandemic pay under a one-year, $24.2 billion state budget plan that passed the House by a vote of 95-52 early Tuesday morning.
Essential workers who were included under phase 1a and 1b of the federal vaccine rollout would be eligible for the one-time payments ranging from $200 to $1,000. Federal, state and municipal employees are excluded.
The money is a way to recognize workers “who have really not seen anything relative to an increase in pay or an increase in support for what they did during COVID,” said Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chair of the legislative Appropriations Committee. Since the early days of the pandemic, front-line workers have lobbied the General Assembly for hazard pay for risking their health and safety to keep vital services going. But the $30 million included in the budget is well below what labor advocates were seeking.
A $750 million proposal from the legislative Labor and Public Employees Committee would’ve provided $2,000 to full-time workers and $1,000 to part-timers in the private and public sectors.
Under the budget plan, a full-time worker who makes less than $100,000 would be eligible for $1,000. A full-time employee whose income is between $130,000 and $149,999 would get $200. Part-timers would get $500. Qualifying workers would have to apply to receive the payments, which would go out after Oct. 1.
“I’m just concerned that $30 million in a budget so large is not enough to cover all of the workers who would be deserving of this pandemic pay,” Rep. Joe Polletta, R-Watertown, said during the House debate.
The payments for private sector workers were included in the budget at the request of Osten and fellow appropriations co-chair, Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven. The request follows recent legislative approval of new contracts for 43,000 state employees that include raises and bonuses.
Some lawmakers equated the bonuses — $2,500 this spring and $1,000 after July 1 — to hazard pay for state workers. Gov. Ned Lamont has said the bonuses are a way to recognize state employees for their work throughout the pandemic.
The governor’s budget secretary, Jeff Beckham, during a news conference at the state Capitol Monday left open the possibility of state workers receiving hazard pay on top of the bonuses.
“We have some monies available for it and so we would have to negotiate what that would look like,” Beckham said.
From the CTinsider