state check
State check signed by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo and State Treasurer Shawn Wooden. Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

The state is sending $1,000 bonuses to about 1,500 recently-employed Connecticut residents this week — the first round of payments under a federally-funded program designed to lure the long-term unemployed back into the workforce.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced the Back to Work CT program in May. The goal was to use federal CARES ACT funding to incentivize residents who had been out of work and help businesses struggling to fill positions. The governor implemented the idea as some states were cutting off access to weekly $300 supplemental unemployment payments. Those extra federal benefits are set to expire next week. 

In the meantime, the Connecticut Revenue Services Department has received more than 7,000 applications and the state is reviewing them for eligibility, a Labor Department spokesman said. In order to qualify, a resident must have held a new job for at least eight weeks and must have been filing for unemployment benefits for at least 12 weeks prior to May 30. As many as 10,000 workers can qualify for the $10 million program. 

In a press release Monday, Lamont said many workers who had been displaced by the pandemic were beginning to transition back to the workforce. 

“This one-time bonus payment will help some of those workers pay for the critical things they need to get back to work, including child care,” Lamont said. “This is the latest tool in our toolbox to maximize our state’s recovery from the pandemic.”

Earlier this month, Eric Gjede, vice president of government affairs for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the program had prompted a disappointing number of applicants. At the time, 5,400 workers had applied. 

Republicans were also critical of the program when the governor announced it in May. House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said Lamont was “gleefully proposing this bribe-to-work program” rather than dropping federal supplemental benefits as other states had done. 

However, in Monday’s press release, interim Labor Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo said the bonuses would help cover the costs of transitioning back into the workforce especially for women who were balancing primary caretaker responsibilities.
“This is a job-seeker’s market. It’s a great time for people to get back into the workforce and take advantage of opportunities to improve salary and benefits, or even start a new career,” Bartolomeo said.