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Connecticut Focuses on Unemployment Debt Before Benefit Expansion

A bill proposed by state Democrats would provide assistance to striking workers, despite unemployment benefits historically being restricted to those who lost their jobs through layoffs and corporate downsizing.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont speaks at the Connecticut State Capitol on Feb. 8, 2023, in Hartford.
(Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant/TNS)
Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont was cool Tuesday, May 9, to a controversial bill by Democrats to provide unemployment benefits for striking workers. While strongly supported by liberal Democrats, the idea has been blasted by Republicans.

Historically, unemployment benefits have been largely restricted to those who lost their jobs through layoffs and corporate downsizing. New York, however, began offering benefits for striking workers after a law signed in February 2020 by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I think unemployment is really oriented towards folks who, through no fault of their own, were laid off due to a recession, and I think that’s what the focus of the unemployment benefits ought to be,” Lamont said in West Hartford when asked by The Courant.

“Fortunately, we have some of the lowest unemployment we’ve ever had in the state. That means we’re paying off our deficit in the unemployment fund. It should be paid off very soon — in less than six months. Start building a surplus in that account again, and I think we ought to focus on that before we expand any more benefits.”

The Connecticut measure passed the state Senate last year on mostly party lines, but did not pass in the state House of Representatives before time expired at the end of the session.

Lamont had described the idea last year as “pretty novel.”

On Monday, three fiscally conservative Democrats – Sen. Joan Hartley of Waterbury, Rep. Melissa Osborne of Simsbury, and Rachel Khanna of Greenwich – voted with the Republicans against the unemployment benefits.

©2023 Hartford Courant. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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