HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont said he was shocked to learn that most of the 1,500 federal workers who live in Connecticut are unable to collect unemployment benefits.
That’s why he was so pleased to announce Tuesday that Connecticut was teaming up with Webster Bank to guarantee no-interest loans to the federal workers impacted by the shutdown.
“We have put together a public-private partnership,” Lamont said at a 5 pm press conference.
Lamont said Webster Bank will offer the no-interest loans and the state of Connecticut “would back-stop this.”
About 80 percent of federal government employees in Connecticut are essential so they are not eligible for unemployment compensation because they are technically still employed. They are just working without pay.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal suggested that the state Labor Department change the law in order to offer these employees unemployment compensation, but attorneys in the Labor Department said any such change would risk millions in federal funds.
“Make no mistake, these employees deserve a paycheck for the vital services they are providing to the American public,” Blumenthal said Tuesday. “So long as the President’s shutdown continues, the least we can do is ensure impacted workers have full access to unemployment compensation to pay their mounting bills. More than 1,500 federal employees in Connecticut have been made political pawns by a petulant President pandering to his political base. Let’s reopen the government now, and then have a real conversation and debate about effective border security and comprehensive immigration reform.”
Lamont said this is just the start of how he will reach out to the private sector and help take the lead as governor.
John R. Ciulla, president and CEO of Webster Bank, said they are pleased to provide interest-free loans to these workers.
“We’re really happy to do it,” Ciulla said. “It’s simply the right thing to do.”
The details of the plan are still being worked out and it could cost up to $5 million per month but it’s unclear how much each worker would receive.
“They’ll get back-pay later and in the meantime we’re taking care of the folks in need,” Lamont said.
As far as the term of the loan and the payment schedule “we want to make this as easy as possible to make sure we’re bridging people’s income,” Ciulla said.
Ciulla said he’s confident other banks will participate and the details of how to get the loans will be made soon.
Lamont said government should be there to help these workers and if he can offer that help with the private sector it’s “all the better.”
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, applauded Lamont for the creative solution.
“The proposed temporary support is a clever and unique way to leverage a partnership to help those in need,” Fasano said. “I look forward to reviewing the details of this proposal and am hopeful that we will see necessary protections to ensure taxpayer funds are protected at the same time assistance is provided to the workers who are most in need.”
Details about how federal workers can apply for the loans will be available soon. In the meantime, workers are encouraged to reach out to the Connecticut Department of Labor online or contact their local American Job Center.
Lamont is also encouraging municipalities to delay collecting property taxes from affected employees.