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October 2 Weekly Update

Posted on October 2, 2020 by cthomas


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This week, I would like to share important updates, guidance and resources regarding COVID-19, the recent legislative Special Session, extensions to DMV deadlines, updates from the Department of Labor and a new workforce efficiency study.

COVID-19 Update

Updated COVID-19 Numbers

As of October 01, 2020, at 8:30 PM, the total of laboratory-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases reported among Connecticut residents is 58,297, including 55,862 laboratory-confirmed and 2,435 probable cases

Please click here to view the most recent COVID-19 numbers, detailed by town and county.

Travel Advisory Update: Colorado Added, Arizona and Virginia Removed

The regional travel advisory between Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York that went into effect in June and directs incoming travelers from states with a significant community spread of COVID-19 to self-quarantine for a 14-day period, was updated on September 29 and now includes Colorado but removes Arizona and Virginia.

The quarantine applies to any person arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.

Travelers from these states may opt out of quarantine if they obtain a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to their arrival in Connecticut, but must still file an online travel advisory form with the state Department of Public Health.

Also, the Connecticut Airport Authority has launched a COVID-19 testing site at Bradley International Airport in partnership with Connecticut-based lab Genesys Diagnostics Site located in the baggage claim area. For more details, click here.

For more information about the changes and a full list of states and locations that meet these criteria, please click here.

DPH Releases Halloween Guidance

The Department of Public Health has released guidance on how we can celebrate Halloween this year while continuing to limit the spread of COVID-19. Recommendations include one-way trick-or-treating, ideas for social distance parties, and the kinds of parties you should avoid.

The full outline can be found by clicking here.

Resources for those in Self-Quarantine

A variety of new resources have recently been launched to support those who need to isolate or self-quarantine due to COVID-19. With nonprofit partners such as United Way 2-1-1 and 4-CT, these programs and services are designed to support individuals in need who are asked to isolate or self-quarantine because of a positive COVID-19 test or potential exposure to the virus. Ultimately, the services will help slow the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring that those infected or potentially exposed can stay home and avoid workplaces, schools, and gatherings.

Programs and services include

  • The Community Resource Coordinator (CRC) program: This public-private partnership draws on the strengths and connections of community based organizations and leverages state, federal, local and philanthropic contributions. CRCs will be responsible for working hand-in-hand with the contact tracing team, providers and service organizations to ensure that individuals have access to food, housing, and income they need to stay at home. The state has partnered with five regional community based organizations to run this program, and hire CRCs locally who know their communities – and can ensure individuals get access to what they need quickly.
  • COVID kits for those who need to monitor their symptoms: COVID kits with needed supplies like thermometers, pulse oximeters, and masks will be available through CRCs for those in need.
  • Housing support: The state is dedicating $220,000 new dollars each month to short-term hotel options for those who can’t safely self-isolate or quarantine at home.
  • Expansion of 4-CT Cash Cards: 4-CT has allocated a total of $108,170 over the next five months to cash cards that can support the basic expenses of those who may need to miss work due to self-isolation or quarantine, and may not be eligible for unemployment insurance.
  • Food assistance: With the support of 2-1-1 and local community teams, CRCs will help connect those in need to local food pantries and delivery services in their community.

These efforts have been a collaboration between local partners and multiple state agencies including the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Department of Social Services, Department of Administrative Services, Department of Housing, and Department of Agriculture with the Office of Health Strategy, the Office of Policy Management, and the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

The state is contracting with one organization in each Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security region to facilitate the Community Resource Coordinator program. Fairfield and Trumbull are included in Region 1, which will be working with the Southwestern CT Agency on Aging (SWCAA).

Special Session September 30th

Wednesday, the House of Representatives was called into session to address various pieces of legislation that we were unable to vote on during regular session, and others that were drafted this summer. Working deep into the night, we confirmed four judges and passed nine bills, a few of which are highlighted below. I voted for each of these bills, which were also passed in the State Senate yesterday and await the governor’s signature.

HB 7006: The Energy Bill

HB 7006, colloquially called “The Energy Bill,” addresses electric company performance and accountability. This bill creates a performance-based rate-setting process, gives regulators and the public more time to scrutinize rate increase requests, ties CEO compensation to performance, provides compensation to customers when storm response is inadequate, and more.

I testified that the bill should have included measures for greater transparency and was pleased to have the commitment of the Energy Committee co-chair to co-sponsor a bill with me next session that will achieve that goal.

You can view that testimony here.

HB 7005: Election Monitors and Absentee Ballot Expediency

HB 7005 requires the Secretary of State to provide an election monitor in any municipality with a population of at least 140,000 (i.e., Bridgeport) for the 2020 state election and enables Town Clerks, if they choose, to begin the ballot pre-counting process. Essentially, this is processing the outer envelope, it does NOT include any ballot opening or counting. In those instances, its important for voters to know that it will move up the date for taking back an absentee ballot to 5pm, four days before the election. Normally, an absentee voter has the option to take back their ballot up until 5pm the day prior to the election.

HB 7010: School Construction Bill

HB 7010, which among other things distributes grants for school construction, includes a grant of $5,735,556 for the Mill Hill Elementary School project in Fairfield. Thank you to our BOS, BOF, BOE, and the entire community for their hard work in helping secure this grant.

Additional Bills Passed

  • HB 7001: this is a technical change to the Transfer Act that will make it easier to assess pollution liability on properties as they are sold.
  • HB 7002: makes changes to fees for judicial marshals.
  • HB 7003: creates compliance of the state’s hemp program with federal regulations.
  • HB 7004: clarifies that condominiums are eligible for the special loans available for the repair of buildings affected by crumbling foundations.
  • HB 7008: revises the state’s Environmental Justice Law.
  • HB 7009: adjusts deadlines for certain property tax exemptions and municipal matters.

DMV Announces New Deadline Extensions 

The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has announced that the agency is once again extending deadlines for several expiring credentials. The change impacts credentials that expired between March 10, 2020 through November 30, 2020. Late fees will be waived for qualifying credentials.

Deadlines have been extended for the following DMV transactions:

  • All licenses, permits, and identification cards, including commercial driver’s licenses
  • Motor vehicle and boat registrations
  • Emissions testing and retesting
  • Permanent disability placard

Credentials that have expiration dates of March 10 through May 31, 2020 will be valid until November 30, 2020. Credentials that have expirations dates of June 1 through November 30, 2020 will be valid until December 31, 2020.

The extensions are intended to help safeguard the general public against the spread of COVID-19 and to maintain social distancing within offices.

For questions, updates, or information about recent extensions of previously issued extensions, visit www.ct.gov/dmv, or call 1-800-842-8222.

Department of Labor Update

Increased Weekly Benefits for New Filers

The Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL) has announced that beginning on October 4, 2020, the weekly benefit rate will go up $18 to a maximum of $667 per week. This rate applies to new filers with a benefit year starting on or after October 4, 2020; it does not apply to claimants who are currently receiving unemployment or who file a claim prior to that date. The weekly benefit rate is based on the average wage of all Connecticut workers calculated between April 2019 and March 2020. The Connecticut Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages puts that wage at $1,349 per week during that timeframe. The dependency allowance remains $15 per dependent to a maximum of $75 per week.

Restaurant Wages Clarified

It was also announced that beginning September 24, 2020, tipped food service workers must be paid a minimum wage of $12.00 per hour when they are performing duties other than tipped food service for more than two hours per shift or 20% of their time. The Tip Credit rate of pay will remain $6.38 per hour. These regulations were mandated by a 2019 public act which clarified the proper rates for tipped workers when performing non-tipped work.

Lamont to Evaluate Workforce Efficiency

Governor Ned Lamont has announced that his administration will be conducting a study to evaluate workforce efficiency and organizational design that will prepare the state for a significant number of anticipated retirements among state employees by 2022. The goal of the project is to generate recommendations about how best to mitigate the risk of the potential retirements and use the opportunity to modernize and improve how state government provides its critical services to Connecticut residents while reducing cost.

The study will be conducted in three phases, with an anticipated completion date of February 2021. The Office of Policy and Management (OPM) and Department of Administrative Services (DAS) will oversee the effort and provide the necessary funding. In the 2017 bipartisan budget, the legislature directed the prior administration to hire a national consultant to help the state identify efficiency opportunities and this project will fulfill that goal.

The three-phase process will entail the following:

  • Phase 1 will include analysis of executive branch agencies to identify and document the scope and magnitude of the issues related to their workforce and efficiency opportunities. Upon completion of Phase 1, gaps and opportunities will be identified and developed for further review.
  • Phase 2 will develop targeted best practices, prioritizing criteria and objectives, identifying and analyzing available choices, and testing recommendations.
  • Phase 3 will include analysis of outcomes, stakeholder feedback, and detailed review of the information, culminating in a final report in February 2021.