legislators seek to blunt economic impact of virus
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Sports Bristol Central Bristol Eastern St. Ned Lamont are considering additional ways to mitigate the impact of the new coronavirus on residents and businesses, as well as the state’s overall economy.
With the General Assembly on a temporary pause because of the outbreak a delay that will eat up valuable time in an already short, three month legislative session there’s interest in prioritizing a legislative response to the outbreak as well as passing major bills such as the state budget.
Discussions among legislative leaders and the governor are planned this week as official legislative business has been postponed at the state Capitol until at least March 30. The session is scheduled to adjourn May 6.
“People need to stop worrying about their pet bills, their initiatives that they really care about, and start focusing on this big picture of long term economic recovery,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora, R North Branford, the deputy GOP leader in the House of Representatives who will be part of the closed door discussions.
## ## The owner of Connecticut Sportsplex, an indoor/outdoor recreation attraction in North Branford, Candelora said he’s already planning for large scale layoffs at his business because of the virus. He suggested lawmakers suspend the recent minimum wage increase to $11 an hour. Another increase to $12 an hour is scheduled for October. Numerous venues across the state have postponed events and various businesses, including restaurants, have already reported a downturn in customers.
“Frankly, the retail/entertainment industry was going to have a hard enough time implementing all these costs that the legislature put on us last session. And now you add in a pandemic and you’re going to see massive failure,” he said.
Joe Brennan, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said he’s urging lawmakers to “do no harm” when they finally return to Hartford.
“There’s a lot of things that they’re still pushing that would make things worse instead of better,” he said. “Anything that’s going to make it more expensive, more burdens, more mandates for whatever just no don’t go there.”
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, COVID 19, the illness caused by the virus, can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.
At least 20 people have tested positive for the virus in Connecticut, including a case announced Sunday of a Hartford man who received treatment at UConn Health and has been released with instructions to quarantine himself at home. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said at a news conference there likely will be hundreds or thousands of cases in the city. On Friday, the governor announced the state Department of Economic and Community Development will defer loan payments for three months for those businesses impacted by COVID 19 that are part of the state’s Small Business Express program. There are approximately 800 outstanding loans with an aggregate loan balance of approximately $110 million.
Sen. Cathy Osten, D Sprague, the co chairman of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, said she expects the yet to be finalized state budget will need to include possibly up to $22 million in new funding for everything from testing supplies to replacement staffing costs if certain state workers become ill. That’s in addition to the $8.1 million Connecticut is expected to see in the first allotment of federal assistance. The state is also expected to receive more money under legislation that cleared Congress early Saturday morning.
A former employee at the Department of Correction, Osten said prison workers have told her they may “get frozen and have to stay there” if there’s an outbreak of the virus in a prison and a subsequent lock down. Osten said those workers would need to be replaced with other people.