HARTFORD – State Rep. JP Sredzinski, R-112th, signed a letter from the House Republican Caucus to Gov. Ned Lamont Tuesday, offering proposals to provide immediate relief to struggling businesses, idle workers, families and taxpayers coping with the economic consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The proposed measures include breaks on overdue property taxes, the creation of a business interruption fund for Main Street businesses, and relief for those saddled with student debt.
“These recommended proposals would allow the governor to unleash the full power of state government in its effort to combat the COVID-19 outbreak,”Sredzinski said. “That means leveraging our relationships with the private sector and providing immediate relief to our economy’s backbone until we successfully curb the outbreak.”
Legislators also asked the governor to find efficiencies within the state workforce by identifying underused employees and temporarily reassigning them to positions that are in high demand, such as the processing of unemployment claims.
The proposals could be enacted quickly through executive orders if Lamont chooses to do so and would not require any legislative action. Most of the ideas were solicited from constituents who continue to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak and protect their families and businesses from the threat it poses.
In their letter, the legislators commended the administration for its handling of the outbreak and made clear that their ongoing communication with constituents uniquely positions them to identify problems and propose solutions.
Sredzinski said the House Republican Caucus stands ready to work with legislative Democrats, Senate Republicans and the governor to address ongoing issues as they arise. The State Capitol complex has been closed since March 12. An assessment will be made after Easter as to how long the shutdown will last, depending on developments at the state and federal levels.
House Republican Coronavirus Response
Unemployment Experience Rating
Through no fault of their own, many businesses were forced to shut down and lay off employees. They should not be punished further by requiring them to pay higher unemployment taxes.
Each company’s experience rating should be capped at the rate that was in place on March 1, 2020.
Business Interruption Compensation
With very few exceptions, businesses cannot use business interruption insurance policies to cover the loss of business income related to the Coronavirus crisis and emergency orders.
Ultimately, layoffs or staffing reductions are inevitable; employers and their employees share the pain of businesses having to close their doors.
The state shall create a business interruption fund to compensate small and medium-sized companies (as well as non-profits) that were shut down or were significantly impacted by a reduction in business. This program is not insurance and does not change existing insurance policies. It is a state-funded business assistance program that would rely on insurance companies to process applications for grants or loans.
Property Tax Payments
Many businesses and families will find a way to get by; they just need a little time.
The penalty for late payments of business and residential property taxes on real estate, motor vehicle, and personal property should be reduced from 18% to 2%, for payments made up to 90 days after the deadline. This change will apply to payments otherwise due on or before August 31, 2020.
Town Hall Hours of Operation
Towns need to find a balance between practicing social distancing and continuing to provide services for their residents.
Town halls should be accessible to residents by appointment to perform required services, and town officials must inform residents regarding accessibility options.
Trade and Professional Licenses
From now until June 30th, all fees and renewals for trade and professional licenses should be delayed by 90 days.
Public health experts are discouraging the use of reusable bags during our fight against the spread of the Coronavirus because they can carry and spread the virus and foodborne illness.
We should suspend local ordinances that ban the use of plastic bags.
Efficient Use of State Workforce
Some state employees continue to go to the office or job site to work; others are telecommuting, and some are forced to be at home with reduced responsibilities or no work responsibilities at all. It’s not their fault. Meanwhile, some agencies are struggling to keep up with workloads.
The administration should actively try to identify underutilized employees and temporarily reassign them to positions that are in high demand, such as the processing of unemployment claims.
Nursing School Graduates
If hospitals are not crowded yet, they will be soon as the peak of the Coronavirus is expected to hit within the next few weeks. Hospitals will need all the help they can get.
Throughout Connecticut, hundreds of nurses will be graduating soon, and they will be unselfishly eager to do their part during this emergency. The state should do everything in its power to responsibly expedite the testing and licensing processes to place graduating nurses into the healthcare workforce.
Whether they are business owners, employees, or independent contractors, so many college graduates are struggling with the additional burden of paying off a college loan while trying to get by during this time of crisis.
The Governor should contact the federal government to urge refinancing of student loans at the same interest rate that banks are able to borrow money. Lower rates should apply to all higher education – universities, trade schools and certificate programs.
First Responders, Healthcare Workers
Our first responders and healthcare workers are on the front lines of our battle against the spread of Coronavirus. Many have already contracted the virus and it is inevitable that more will follow, and they will need to have an appropriate amount of time for recovery without going through loads of red tape.
For purposes of compensation, we should establish a presumption that any first responder or healthcare worker who contracts COVID-19 did so while on the job. They should not have to go through a long, drawn-out process to prove that they contracted the virus on the job.