Jordan Deangelo, a PCA from Winsted, is arrested by state Capitol officers Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

More than a dozen home care workers were arrested Wednesday during a die-in at the Legislative Office Building over a decision by Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration not to extend a deadline for health insurance. 

The more than 11,000 homecare workers had negotiated a stipend for health insurance, but only 29 were granted the stipend before the Feb. 24 deadline. SEIU 1199, the union that represents the workers, estimated over 1,500 were eligible. 

They say some were wrongfully denied and others were unaware and did not apply because the state failed to notify them. The concerns are mounting for some of these workers. 

One worker tried to apply, but the website was down for 24 hours before the deadline. He’s uninsured and awaiting insurance to see a heart specialist. Another worker, Isaac Kolonziaa, a live-in, home care worker, has a rash on his head that he needs to get biopsied, but he keeps having to put off the surgery because he doesn’t have insurance. He never received a response when he applied. 

Missing the deadline means the workers, who fought and won health insurance benefits and paid sick days as part of a contract negotiation back in May, won’t be able to apply for another six months. 

SEIU1199 members conduct a die-in on the floor of the Legislative Office Building Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

The union says the application process was full of technical flaws and homecare workers were given little notice and no communication in Spanish, even though a majority are Spanish speakers. 

The union sent a letter to the administration on Feb. 24 arguing in part that the due date was only communicated to the workers three days before the deadline. At the time only 100 had applied and 29 applications were approved. 

“We are worried many PCA’s who need this coverage will be left without the ability to apply in time, and that applications are being wrongfully denied by the fiscal intermediaries,” the union wrote. 

Home care workers earn around $17 an hour and many have never had access to health insurance before this contract. 

“Again, we understand that there are usually growing pains associated with any new program that the state is implementing, and so we are asking you to take another look at this and work with us to try to get more folks on this critical benefit. Keep in mind that a large majority of Connecticut’s 11,000 home care PCAs are Black, Latina, and white working-class women who continue to suffer through poverty wages and lack essential protections such as health insurance for medical attention. Let’s work together and convert our joint efforts into a win for Connecticut, for PCAs and for every elderly and disabled consumer who enjoys their loving care,” the letter reads. 

Sgt. Timothy Boyle reads the first of three warnings for the protesters to disperse Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

A spokesman for the Lamont administration said they had no responsibility to reach out to these workers to inform them of the benefits under the contract. 

That being said “because we want to make sure the PCAs know about this opportunity and have access to the health care they deserve we have worked with Access Health CT to create a dedicated hotline to help those interested in applying for this benefit and to establish a dedicated Special Enrollment Period just for PCAs to align with the March 16th benefit release, sent an initial round of communications to PCAs and their employers informing them of the benefit and imploring employers to share the information with their PCAs, and recently released a second round of emails and robocalls to PCAs,” Chris Collibee, a spokesman for the Lamont administration, said. 

The administration added that the PCA Workforce Council has met every requirement for this benefit spelled out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The union said “it’s ridiculous to say that the state wouldn’t be able to meet its contractual obligation with the union if the state extends the application deadline for the first round.”