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Connecticut essential workers may have to wait until next year for hazard pay

Clarissa Johnson of Hartford marches with long-term care members of the New England Health Care Employees Union, during a rally to demand new laws to protect long-term caregivers and consumers, July 23, 2020, at the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut.
Jessica Hill
/
Associated Press
Clarissa Johnson of Hartford marches with long-term care members of the New England Health Care Employees Union, during a rally to demand new laws to protect long-term caregivers and consumers, July 23, 2020, at the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut.

Essential workers in Connecticut who have yet to get pandemic-related hazard pay may have to wait until 2022. Some state lawmakers want the Lamont administration to follow U.S. Treasury guidelines and pay the essential workers up to $13 an hour in addition to their regular wages.

At a legislative budget hearing, State Representative Robin Porter, who co-chairs the labor committee, complained that essential workers, including municipal bus drivers, are concerned that they won’t get the hazard pay.

They are irate. They need and they want hazard pay yesterday,” said Porter.

Lawmakers set aside $22 million in federal pandemic relief money in June for hazard pay, said State Budget Director Melissa McCaw. That money is for state employees and the Connecticut National Guard, but payments have been slow because of labor negotiations, she said.

“So if we are talking outside of state workers, we need to have those discussions in the next legislative session and we’d have to build those allocations into the amended budget,” McCaw said.

McCaw assured lawmakers that there is still federal pandemic relief money available for other workers. The U.S. Treasury guidelines allow for hazard pay to be provided for truck drivers, transit workers, warehouse staff and other essential workers, she said.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.