NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Connecticut News

Lamont Moves To Aid Economy Shaken By Coronavirus

Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont
Jessica Hill
Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont says he will expedite the payout of the state’s share of emergency federal loans to small businesses in response to COVID-19. President Donald Trump announced the $50 billion loan package during his address to the nation on Wednesday.

Lamont has designated David Lehman, his economic and community development commissioner, to work with the Federal Small Business Administration to expedite the payout.

“We are going to be, over the course of the next week, be able to find how we can roll out our share of that $50 billion in very low-interest loans.”

He says this would especially help businesses in the service sector that have seen a slowdown. Lamont also wants to restructure some of the loans Connecticut has already given to small businesses.

“To make sure we can put off paying principal and interest. We are working with our banks as well. Ways that we can maintain liquidity. So that our small businesses know that there are ways that they can keep going forward. We don’t know if this is going to be one month or two month, what the duration is ,but we are planning for the future.”

To that end, Lamont says he’s pleased that President Trump has allowed states more flexibility with unemployment benefits to cover sick time for workers.

“To make it easier for you to get compensation. Even though you are doing the right thing at that time if you have to take the time off to self-quarantine.”

Lamont says he’s signed some executive orders. One would extend by 90 days all state license renewals that are due.

“So you don’t need to go to the DMV for the near term.”

Another would relax state rules to allow temporary child day care centers be set up for medical professionals who deal with the outbreak.

Joseph Brennan, president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Council, says he is pleased with Lamont’s policies, but is concerned about some of Trump’s plans.

“The most recent policies about shutting down the people coming from Europe, none Americans coming from Europe. Whether that’s going to have any impact or not given the fact the virus is already here, I’m not quite sure. And some of the economic things about payroll tax deductions and things like that. We just haven’t had time to even analyze things like that right now. We are just kinda bailing water out of a boat right now.”

But he says Trump allowing states to be more flexible in administering unemployment insurance might be good.

“Particularly for those that are most impacted. People at the low end of the income scale that might lose revenue. People that work in venues, athletic and other venues. All these activities shut down, people are not going to be paid. How do we provide for those folks?”

UConn economist Fred Carstensen says Connecticut officials seem to have done a good job so far.

“They’ve canceled public hearings at the legislature. They are talking about deferring the whole legislative session by a month. We seem to be ahead of the curve in terms of our capacity to be ahead of the curve.”

But he too is concerned about the national response.

“The congressional delegation from North Carolina, Democrats and Republicans just wrote to Homeland Security and CDC saying you’re talking about test kits being available, we have 300 total. Three hundred total available in North Carolina. This has got to change.”

Connecticut has 600 tests. As for business, Carstensen says the problem is uncertainty.

“We know what the likelihood of having a traffic accident is. We know about the likelihood of the incidence of flu. We know about the risks that are out there and we can deal with risk very effectively. You can’t deal with uncertainty because uncertainty is unknowable. And in the face of not being able to know anything, you just stop.”

State officials have yet to project the financial impact COVID-19 will have on business in Connecticut.

Read the latest on WSHU’s coronavirus coverage here.