Sunset at the state Capitol
Sunset at the state Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut. Credit: File / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut will remain in a COVID-based public health emergency in order to continue receiving federal funds to offset the costs of supplemental food benefits and non-congregate shelters, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday. 

Lamont wrote to the clerks of the state House and Senate Tuesday to advise the legislature he plans to extend a public health emergency until next June or when a federal emergency ends. The governor initially declared the six-month emergency in June of this year and it would otherwise have expired on Dec. 28. 

As he did in June, Lamont stressed he would not issue emergency executive orders under the ongoing public health emergency. The declaration was meant to allow state agencies to qualify for federal dollars, he said. 

“We need this declaration in place, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to access the federal support necessary for emergency food benefits and housing services that other states across the country are continuing to receive as a result of the pandemic,” Lamont said in a press release. “By issuing this declaration, we are ensuring that this added support can continue for at least several more months.”

According to the Lamont administration the ongoing public health emergency has broadened eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and allowed more than 224,000 households to receive around $929 million in support. 

Meanwhile, federal funding has paid for Connecticut to place nearly 7,000 residents in homeless shelters and several hundred domestic violence survivors in shelters, according to the press release. 

In an interview Tuesday, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said he understood the ongoing declaration enabling Connecticut to qualify for more federal funding, but worried the ongoing expansion of the SNAP benefits may be contributing to labor shortages felt by employers in the state.

“By all accounts even the president has said the pandemic is over and while I understand people are hurting, a lot of these benefits can be an incentive for people not to go back to work,” Candelora said. 

State policymakers needed to start planning for the expiration of a public health emergency and its impact on programs like domestic violence shelters, he said.

“With COVID in the rearview mirror, we can’t keep blaming domestic violence issues on COVID,” Candelora said. “We’ve got to start looking at reforms in the state of Connecticut that will address them as the money is running out.”