Expansion of Testing, Unemployment Assistance,
Small Business Relief, Schools, and More
It can be difficult to keep up with the volume of news about the COVID-19 situation in Connecticut. A number of new developments have taken place over the past few days, and I’d like to share with you a summary of them here.
Important Expansion of COVID-19 Testing
Governor Lamont and the CT Department of Public Health have suspended a regulation that required a doctor’s referral for residents to receive COVID-19 testing. Now, if you want to be tested, you will no longer need permission from your medical provider. To facilitate access to testing, pharmacists are now allowed to administer tests as well. For all testing sites in Connecticut, reservations will continue to be required, and there is no cost for the test, even for people who are uninsured.
Click here to read more.
Relief for Small Businesses
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) resumed accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on April 27, 2020. This program allows small businesses to apply for loans with a maturity of two years and a 1% interest rate. SBA notes that these loans are forgivable, provided the employers keep all employees on the payroll at the same pay/salary level for eight weeks, and provided the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. At least 75% of the forgiven amount must be used for payroll.
Click here to read more.
Federal Unemployment Assistance
To help residents during this uncertain time, the federal and state governments have expanded and increased unemployment benefits. Specifically, the CARES Act offers three separate programs to eligible recipients. Here is a brief summary of those programs:
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
FPUC is a supplemental payment of $600 per week to individuals who are already receiving some other form of unemployment insurance (UI), such as state assistance. This program is now available. Eligible recipients do not need to apply for FPUC separately. You will be automatically enrolled once you have filed for regular unemployment insurance (UI), PUA or PEUC (not yet available). Last week, Governor Lamont announced that the CT Department of Labor has begun issuing these federal stimulus payments to eligible recipients.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
PUA is unemployment assistance for self-employed individuals and others who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits through the state. The CT Department of Labor (CT DOL) has announced that the full application (steps one and two) for PUA is now available.
Here is a brief summary of the two-step process to apply for PUA:
- Step One: Pursuant to Federal guidelines, self-employed individuals, including independent contractors and “gig” workers, are required first to apply through the Connecticut unemployment system. This can be done be selecting the “blue button”. (See graphic below).
- Step Two:Before proceeding to this step, applicants must receive a determination notice (UC-58) in the mail from the CT DOL prior to applying for and gaining access to benefits under the newly designed PUA program. When you receive the determination notice, you may then proceed to step two using the “red button”. (See graphic again for illustration).
CT DOL encourages claimants to select “direct deposit” for their payment method if possible. This greatly speeds up the process. This can be done by selecting the “green button”.
Click here to begin the process or click on the image below.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
PEUC allows individuals to receive an extra 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. This program is not yet available in Connecticut, but I will provide updates when possible.
Here is an FAQ document from CT DOL detailing PUA and other unemployment assistance programs: Click Here
Reminder: K-12 Public Schools Will Remain Closed for Academic Year
As a reminder, all in-person K-12 classes at public schools will remain cancelled for the 2019-2020 academic year. Distance learning will continue. Schools will also be required to continue providing meals to children under the school lunch and breakfast programs for consumption at home, as they have been doing throughout this emergency. According to the governor and the early childhood commissioner, summer camps will be allowed to open this summer under very specific guidelines. Those guidelines have not yet been released, but I will forward that information as soon as it becomes available. Information about summer school will also be forthcoming.
Click here to read more.
Reopen CT Advisory Group
Governor Lamont has named the members of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group that will develop a series of recommendations winding down the measures taken to attenuate the effects of the pandemic and restarting the state’s economy. In addition to the umbrella advisory group, which includes public health and business leaders, there are several subsidiary committees: a business committee; a community committee; an education committee; and representatives from the governor’s administration. Reopen CT has already delivered a preliminary report that recommends a gradual process that would unfold in four stages. The first stage is tentatively scheduled to begin on May 20, provided a number of conditions related to the spread of the disease and the expansion of testing have been met by that time.
While I think forming this group and seeking the advice of professionals are sound initiatives on Governor Lamont’s part, I do have two concerns. One is related to the membership of the committees. I believe that people who are living through this period in the trenches should be included. There are no school superintendents or principals, and no small business owners. Nor are there any members of the legislature, who are in contact with residents and businesses from across the state every day and can give voice to their local concerns. Although the group will consult with the governor and legislature, members of the House and Senate should play a larger role in the process. The advisory group must reflect the openness, transparency, and inclusion that Connecticut residents and businesses deserve. I would like to see the composition of the membership reconsidered.
The other concern I have is that the Reopen CT group is excused from open records laws. I believe that the people who are being profoundly affected by the COVID-19 situation in every aspect of their daily lives deserve to know how the situation is being analyzed and what is likely to happen in their immediate future.
As we continue to communicate with the administration about what can be done to ensure that the Reopen CT Advisory Group serves the best interests of the people of Connecticut, your feedback will help us advocate for effective representation and greater transparency. Please take a moment to complete a brief survey about the advisory group. Your response will remain anonymous, but the aggregate feedback we receive will help us convey your concerns.
As a reminder, these regularly updated websites provide the best information from global, federal, state, and local sources:
As always, I will provide more updates as I receive new information. Please contact me if you have questions or concerns about the statewide response to COVID-19, or any state government matter. I am here to speak with you directly, provide more information if possible, and to serve as a resource for you and your families.
State Representative Gail Lavielle
143rd General Assembly District
Wilton, Norwalk, and Westport