The Connecticut Senate voted Tuesday to continue a handful of pandemic-era executive orders set to expire later this week including programs to provide housing for the homeless, curb evictions, and allow the state to share vaccination information with local officials.
During an afternoon session, Democrats in the Senate passed, on a 19-13 vote, an emergency certified bill codifying and extending four emergency orders issued by Gov. Ned Lamont during the height of the pandemic. The policies would have otherwise expired on Friday. Citing process concerns, Republicans voted against the legislation despite agreeing with some elements it included.
“The small scope of this bill reflects the fact that the state has been managing the COVID pandemic successfully and we are moving towards normalcy,” Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said as he explained the bill on the floor.
The four provisions of the bill included giving state agencies the ability to seek federal reimbursements for non-congregate housing programs for people who are homeless. Another element extends relaxed hiring policies for in-demand nurses aides.
The bill also permits the Public Health Department to share a resident’s vaccination status with their health care providers or local health directors if they have misplaced their vaccine records. A fourth provision allows the Housing Department more time to make payments to landlords under the UniteCT program designed to assist renters facing eviction.
“I will be very careful in saying those are only for people who have applications already in. It does not extend applications to the program but does give more time for administrators to get checks out to people,” Lesser said.
Several Republicans objected to the process that led to the emergency certified bill coming up for a vote without a public hearing just three days before the provisions were set to expire.
“Let’s be clear: these are important issues that with proper consideration and deliberation, I think we could have had true bipartisan support and made a possible bill better,” Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said. “But when the powers that be, under the guise of an emergency … can push through bills without transparency, without respect for the voters that we represent, we’ve abdicated our representative powers.”
During a media availability Tuesday, Lamont said he recommended the extension of the four provisions, which he said would help give the state flexibility if the state experiences a “flare up” in COVID-19 cases.
Lamont pointed to the policy allowing the disclosure of a person’s vaccine status to health providers. He said he had previously believed its extension might not have been necessary.
“Two weeks later I see some spike ups. I see what’s happening in Europe. I think it’s prudent,” Lamont said. “I think nurses ought to know who’s been vaccinated.”