Connecticut facing growing cost of pandemic bonus pay

Nov 28, 2022, 1:29 AM | Updated: 8:45 pm
FILE - Clarissa Johnson, of Hartford, Conn., marches with long-term care members of the New England...

FILE - Clarissa Johnson, of Hartford, Conn., 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, on July 23, 2020, in Hartford, Conn. A Connecticut program that offered “hero pay” to essential workers at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic got so many applicants that state lawmakers had to go back into session Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, to provide extra funding and put new limits on who could get the biggest bonuses. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

(AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut program that offered “hero pay” to essential workers at the peak of of the coronavirus pandemic got so many applicants that state lawmakers had to go back into session Monday to provide extra funding and put new limits on who could get the biggest bonuses.

The Connecticut General Assembly voted to revamp the distribution formula for the Premium Pay Program for private sector workers.

Initially, the state had expected to award about $30 million in bonuses to people who had to go to work, in person, in jobs in health care, food distribution, public safety and other essential services.

But after getting 155,730 applications from eligible people, lawmakers realized they would have to either put more money in or slash benefits.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done a program like this in the history of Connecticut, to my knowledge. And guessing what that’s going to be is hard to do,” said Democratic state Rep. Sean Scanlon. “Once we became clear that we did have more oversubscription to the program than there was, we figured out a solution to it.”

Numerous states provided bonuses to certain workers during the coronavirus pandemic, often by tapping into federal relief funds.

Half the states have collectively budgeted about $2.7 billion for extra pay to public or private-sector workers by using federal American Rescue Plan funds, according to an Associated Press analysis of the most recent data released by the U.S. Treasury Department. Connecticut’s program does not rely on the federal funds.

Some states have targeted the extra pay to workers most likely to come into close contact with people, such as public health and safety employees and teachers. Others have distributed money more widely. The “essential employee premium pay program” in Massachusetts provided $500 to any individual earning between about $13,000 and $39,000 annually, or earning up to nearly $80,000 for a household of four.

Under the revamped Connecticut plan, which cleared both chambers of the General Assembly on Monday evening, funding will be boosted by $76.6 million and a new tiered system will be imposed for the program, which has stopped accepting new applications.

Only eligible full-time workers earning $50,000 or less per year — 66,289 people — would receive the full bonus of $1,000. Other applicants would receive reduced sums. The original program had offered full bonuses to workers earning as much as $150,000. Someone earning $150,000 will now receive $100.

Meanwhile, the benefit for eligible part-time workers would drop from $500 to $200.

Connecticut’s program covers a fairly wide range of workers who were among the first eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Those include health care workers, police, firefighters, prison guards, grocery clerks, teachers, bus drivers and employees in various manufacturing fields.

There’s been debate among state and city officials across the country about who should receive pandemic bonuses, especially after the U.S. government allowed so-called hero pay for frontline workers as a possible use of federal pandemic relief funds.

“If you wanted to benefit the heroes, you needed to define better what a hero is,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora, the Republican leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives, who criticized Connecticut’s plan for being underfunded and making “no sense” as to who receives the money.

Like Connecticut, some other state’s bonus programs also far exceeded original estimates.

In Minnesota, checks of $487.45 were cut for qualified frontline workers this fall after the state approved more than 1 million applications. State officials had originally estimated the final pool of qualified workers would be around 667,000, with payments of about $750 apiece, but applications exceeded expectations.

Missouri had originally budgeted $24 million to give bonuses to state employees working in institutions such as prisons, mental health facilities and veterans nursing homes. The program, which expired in 2021, ended up costing nearly $100 million.

Vermont twice increased funding for its hazard pay program, which originally included health care employees who worked during the early days of the pandemic and later was expanded to include retail and grocery workers, child care providers, janitors, trash collectors and others.

If Connecticut’s revamped bonus program for private sector essential workers clears the General Assembly, as expected, the issue of pandemic pay is not over. Gov. Ned Lamont has yet to reach an agreement with union leaders on how to distribute a second pot of money for state workers. An arbitrator is scheduled to meet with both sides Dec. 16.


Lieb reported from Jefferson City, Mo.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Eight Croatian nationals charged with attempting to traffic children, outside the magistrates court...
Associated Press

8 Croatians in Zambia face new charges of child trafficking

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) — Eight Croatians rearrested in Zambia will face new charges of child trafficking and are expected to appear in court on Thursday, a Zambian official announced. Earlier this week a court dropped child trafficking charges against the eight — four couples — and ordered them to leave the country within 48 hours. […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Belarus hands 8-year term to journalist for top Polish paper

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A Belarusian court on Wednesday sentenced a journalist and prominent member of the country’s sizable Polish minority to eight years in prison, amid an ongoing crackdown on critics of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. Andrzej Poczobut, 49, was found guilty of harming Belarus’ national security and “inciting discord” in a closed […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Belgian police seize $1.6 million in sex trafficking probe

BRUSSELS (AP) — About 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in cash were seized during raids in Belgium targeting an alleged criminal organization suspected of sending Chinese women to Europe and forcing them into prostitution, the federal prosecutor’s office said Wednesday. In addition, investigators took hold of four tons of coins with an unspecified value, prosecutors […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Blaze at US drone plant in Latvia; arson not suspected

HELSINKI (AP) — Firefighters worked for a second day Wednesday to fully extinguish a blaze at a U.S. company’s drone plant in Latvia. Local police said nothing had been found so far to indicate sabotage. Latvia’s State Fire and Rescue Service was alerted Tuesday afternoon that a fire had broken out at Edge Autonomy’s drone […]
1 day ago
FILE - People walk past a Microsoft office in New York on Nov. 10, 2016.  (AP Photo/Swayne B. Hall,...
Associated Press

UK watchdog says Microsoft’s Activision deal hurts gamers

LONDON (AP) — Microsoft’s stalled $68.7 billion deal to buy video game company Activision Blizzard has hit a fresh hurdle in the United Kingdom, where the antitrust watchdog said Wednesday that it will stifle competition and hurt gamers. Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority said its in-depth investigation found that the deal could strengthen Microsoft’s position […]
1 day ago
People walk past St. John's Baptistery, one of the oldest churches in Florence, central Italy, Tues...
Associated Press

Visitors can see Florence Baptistry mosaics up close

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Visitors to one of Florence’s most iconic monuments — the Baptistry of San Giovanni, opposite the city’s Duomo — are getting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see its ceiling mosaics up close thanks to an innovative approach to a planned restoration effort. Rather than limit the public’s access during the six-year cleaning […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Connecticut facing growing cost of pandemic bonus pay