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State Senator

Julie Kushner

Representing Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, Sherman

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Sens. Kushner, Lesser Seek Workers' Comp Protections For COVID-Affected Workers

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HARTFORD – State Senators Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) and Matthew Lesser (D-Middletown) today called on Governor Ned Lamont to work with them on legislation ensuring that Connecticut's essential workers – many of them people of color – qualify for workers' compensation insurance coverage in Connecticut if they contract COVID-19 while on the job and suffer health or financial consequences as a result of that infection.

Sens. Kushner and Lesser – who are the Senate chairs of the Labor and Public Employees and the Insurance committees, respectively – said they were pleased that, in the midst of their press conference today, Gov. Lamont issued a public statement vowing to issue an executive order that will provide "a timely, straightforward opportunity to claim any benefits they are due through the workers’ compensation system" if they contracted COVID-19 on the job.

"When the COVID-19 pandemic began four months ago, we made a promise to our first responders and to our essential workers that we would be there for them because they were there for us: working in our hospitals and nursing homes, cleaning our places of work, working at roadside plazas, stocking our shelves, and essentially allowing us to stay at home and stay healthy while they provided us with some semblance of a normal life. Now we need to repay the debt for those who became ill because of their sacrifice for us," Sen. Kushner said. "This is not only a matter of living up to our promises, it's also a matter of racial equity, since so many of the people working in these jobs are Black and brown, and they have been affected by this virus disproportionately."

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, while most workers were able to stay home, essential workers showed up, putting their lives and health on the line. Cops, firefighters, nursing home workers, grocery store workers and so many others. We promised those workers that they were essential, now it’s up to Governor Lamont to show them that they are," Sen. Lesser said. "Across the country, red states and blue states have found ways to allow essential workers to get the workers' compensation they are entitled to under the law. It’s beyond time for Connecticut to do the same.

Essential workers had our backs - now let’s have their backs.”

"We're happy to hear the governor is going to issue an executive order on this matter, and we look forward to seeing the exact language and impact of that order," they said.

Sens. Kushner and Lesser were joined at today's press conference on the steps pf the State Capitol by labor leaders, other legislators, and by Sandra Palomino, who contracted COVID-19 while working for a subcontractor for Pratt & Whitney.

Sandra – who lives alone -- was in the hospital for eight days, and it took her a month and a half to fully recover before she could go back to work on June 1. She believes she contracted the virus at work while cleaning.

The Insurance and Labor committees held a joint informational hearing on June 17 on the issue of expanding workers' compensation coverage to employees who have been hurt on the job by COVID-19 infections; at that hearing, they heard testimony from a female employee of ProPark who came down with COVID-19 while operating as shuttle for doctors and nurses. Her husband, a CT Public Transit bus cleaner, also contracted COVID-19 – both, they believe, while on the job.

A link to that June 17 meeting agenda, testimony, and a video of the proceeding can be found at: https://cga.ct.gov/ins/.



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