HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Did you apply for the Connecticut Premium Pay Program? Connecticut officials provided an update on the “hero pay” program meant to give bonuses of up to $1,000 to essential employees who worked the frontlines through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state launched the program in August, allowing essential workers on the front lines during the pandemic to apply for a bonus of up to $1,000.

The application deadline was Oct. 1, and those eligible should have heard back within 60 days of applying.

For some, this extra money was supposed to help them make ends meet or pay some bills. One mother says it’s the least she deserves after working on the front lines for 2 years. 

Juliette Sabo will be celebrating 41 years of employment with Stop and Shop next week. She says working during the beginning of the pandemic was the hardest time of her career.

“It was scary every day, but you had to do your job. You had to be there for the public,” said Sabo. “I didn’t have a day off for three weeks. I was running my own department and I was also helping out all over the store. I was working maybe 9, 10, 11, or 12-hour days. It was exhausting, the customers were very scared. That was heartbreaking most of all, the elderly people coming in shopping [were] very, very scared.” 

Comptroller-elect Sean Scanlon (D-Conn.) said $30 million was set aside for the “hero pay” program in this year’s budget, but the state underestimated how many applicants there would be.

Scanlon said 206,383 residents applied, but 134,010 were deemed eligible. So instead of receiving $1,000 bonuses, essential workers would get $232.67.

Scanlon said it would cost the state $122 million to pay out the bonuses in full. If more funding is not added to the program, the comptroller’s office, by law, must prorate the bonus each worker will receive.

Payouts Under the Current Funding Structure

Income BreakdownApplicantsBenefit AmountCost
Under $100,000108,838$232.67$25,323,337
Paper Claims (under review)775$164,149
TOTAL: $28,499,767
SOURCE: State Comptroller-Elect Sean Scanlon’s Office

Scanlon urged lawmakers on Wednesday to come together and figure out a solution.

“We need to fully fund this program, and to fully fund this program means it will cost the state $112 million,” Scanlon said. “They deserve it. We have no way of truly thanking the people that served in this hospital [Hartford Hospital], as our police officers, our firefighters, our daycare workers, but this is a start.”

Payouts Under a Fully-Funded Structure

Income BreakdownApplicantsBenefit AmountCost
Under $100,000108,838$1,000$108,838,000
Paper Claims (under review)775$705,500
TOTAL: $122,490,600
SOURCE: State Comptroller-Elect Sean Scanlon’s Office

Scanlon said he wants to do everything possible to get these bonuses paid in full. He suggested the money should come from the state’s $2.8 billion budget surplus.

To be eligible for the “hero pay” program, essential workers had to have worked between March 10, 2020, and May 7, 2022, and not be employed by a federal, state, or municipal government agency. They also had to make less than $100,000. Others could be eligible for less money if they made more than $100,000.

Following Scanlon’s news conference, Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D-Conn.) chief of staff, Paul Mounds, Jr., released a statement saying, “The governor states he will be having conversations with legislative leaders this week about a potential scope of a potential special session. The pandemic pay program will be a topic of discussion, we understand the comptroller-elect has released a proposal and that will be under discussion as well.”

The special session is expected to begin in December.