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United Way has a plan to get Connecticut back to work

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Connecticut’s unemployment rate has stayed above 7%, higher than before the pandemic. United Way of Connecticut has created an employment plan for businesses to attract workers back to work. It’s aimed at people who remain unemployed due to low job wages, lack of affordable child care and employee benefits stemming from the pandemic.

Jennifer Heath, the president of United Way of Greater New Haven, said many of the reasons residents have not returned to work could be resolved if employers prioritize workers' needs at work.

“COVID has really forced a reckoning; people have stepped back to say what do I want from work, and what do I need to make work work for me and for my family,” Heath said.

The group's four-point plan suggests employers:

  • Provide flexible and family friendly child care policies
  • Host free volunteer income tax assistance sites for their employees to help obtain eligible benefits to support their families
  • Use United Way’s 211 service which will connect workers with 40,000 community resources
  • Inform employees about child care subsidies

According to Governor Ned Lamont, as of last month there are approximately 100,000 people in our state collecting unemployment, and there are also 70,000 jobs that are open. 

“Employers and organizations that work with job seekers need to get together and say here's what we know about the state of the workforce, here's what we need as employers and then see what is important from job seekers and commit to working together in new ways,” Heath said.

United Way’s plan also adopted new anti-bias and anti-racism requirements for its chapters.

“As I think of the future of the state of Connecticut I see a state of Connecticut that equitably engages every member, every resident of the state to be a productive member of the future of that state,” said Steven Hernandez, who is the executive director of the group’s commission on women, children, seniors, equity and opportunity.

Hernandez hopes the new requirements will make employers pay more attention to diversity and inclusion during the hiring process.

Heath said there have been a few good things to come out of the pandemic: “This being the recognition that we can work differently and put workers' needs more in the forefront, while finding a good balance with employers and workers.”

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.