christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie
DECD Commissioner David Lehman (christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — It took 24 hours for the Department of Economic and Community Development to accept 4,000 applications and exhaust $25 million in small business assistance.

Applications for the first round of bridge loans from the Small Business Express program are closed and the state will open another round of $25 million in 0% loans to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees soon.

“We feel it is prudent to hit pause and stop taking more applications right now to ensure we can process the current queue efficiently and get this much-needed money out the door as quickly as possible. We want to be fair to all applicants and taking more requests would not be right,” DECD Commissioner David Lehman said.

Small businesses, including sole proprietors, were invited to submit applications. It’s unknown at this point when applications will be accepted for the second $25 million.

About 100,000 unemployment claims have been filed since March 13, which represents 6% of the 1.7 million-strong Connecticut workforce. The Department of Labor said last week that it would stop reporting daily unemployment claims because they’re unable to disaggregate duplicate claims and they worry the information would not be accurate.

DECD will be offering guidance to businesses starting Monday about how they can apply for help through the federal Cares Act.

The Cares Act signed by President Donald Trump Friday extends unemployment benefits to self-employed workers and independent contractors for up to 39 weeks of employment through the end of 2020.

In addition, employees who quit their job for coronavirus-related reasons like the need to take care of someone impacted by the virus could qualify for unemployment benefits if they don’t have access to paid Family and Medical Leave.

As of Sunday evening, 1,993 people in the state have been diagnosed with the disease and 34 people in Connecticut have died from complications caused by COVID-19.

In the meantime, the state of Connecticut received one part of its Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance declaration Sunday.

The partial approval means affected state agencies and municipalities in all eight counties will be reimbursed for 75% of the costs associated with their response and emergency protective measures.

“These decisions will help remove any possible financial barriers from Connecticut’s heroic emergency response effort, which is already saving the lives of our fellow neighbors,” U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said.

The governor’s other request for disaster assistance, including individual assistance that could provide Connecticut residents with a number of critical benefits, such as expanded unemployment assistance, food benefits, and child care assistance, remains under review by the White House.

“I remain hopeful that our request for assistance for individuals will also be approved because this pandemic has had a significant impact on the livelihoods of so many people in Connecticut. Thousands of workers and families are badly hurting,” Lamont said. “Unlocking this assistance would mean expanded unemployment benefits for those who are out of work because of the emergency, needed food benefits, child care assistance, and a host of other critically important aid.”

Lamont said the additional funding “is imperative to protecting the health and safety of the people of our state and further limiting the spread of this disease.”

The Centers for Disease Control issued a 14-day travel advisory for Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey Saturday following President Donald Trump’s comments about a possible mandatory quarantine for the tri-state region.

On Sunday, Lamont chalked up the president’s comments to “musings.”

“The only thing I appreciated about his musings out loud the other day, was he was thinking about this as a region,” Lamont said.

Lamont added that the 1,500 ventilators the state had requested from the national stockpile were rerouted Sunday.

Hearst Connecticut Media reporting was included in this report.