HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A $34 million state fund created by Connecticut lawmakers last year to provide financial help to qualified essential workers has remained mostly untouched, Comptroller Natalie Braswell said Thursday.
The program aims to help those who lost wages and faced out-of-pocket medical expenses and burial costs due to COVID-19.
To date, only about $300,000 has been paid to eligible recipients, prompting Braswell’s office to extend the deadline for applications until December and step up efforts to get the word out about the Connecticut COVID-19 Essential Worker Assistance Fund.
“For us, we think that we need to do more outreach. We need to get more people to know that the program is available, how they apply for the program, what kind of documentation they need, how they apply, how they register,” she said during a state Capitol news conference. “And we’ve been doing a lot of that within the last couple of months.”
The fund is open to any essential Connecticut worker who didn’t have the option to work remotely and who died or was unable to work because they contracted COVID-19 between March 10, 2020, and July 20, 2021. A family member or representative can apply for assistance on behalf of a deceased worker.
The term essential is defined as professions that received immunization priority by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The essential worker fund is one of two COVID-related funds the state created to benefit eligible members of the public. Braswell said her office is in the process of setting up a new online portal for the state’s $30 million premium pay, or “hero pay,” program for essential workers who didn’t necessarily have to have contracted COVID in order to be eligible for the funds.
She said that the program should be up and running by the end of July or early August.
Meanwhile, Policy and Management Secretary Jeff Beckham said negotiations recently began with state employee union leaders to determine how to distribute a third pot of money to essential state workers.