Labor's Push Leads To COVID-19 Assistance Fund for Essential Workers

Organized labor’s determination to help essential workers who were made sick on the job by COVID-19 has led to the creation of the Connecticut Essential Workers COVID-19 Assistance Fund.

During the budget implementer session in mid-June, state legislators finalized the inclusion of $34 million to establish this fund to assist potentially thousands of essential workers who contracted the novel coronavirus on the job through no fault of their own.

Council 4 and other unions pushed hard to create a full workers’ compensation presumption, but were met with resistance from the Lamont administration, employers and insurers. The Connecticut Essential Workers COVID-19 Assistance Fund emerged as an alternative way to help essential workers with out-of-pocket medical expenses and lost wages.

Comptroller Kevin Lembo and his staff agreed to administer the fund when several agencies refused to take on the responsibility. The Comptroller’s Office will start accepting claims on Oct. 1, 2021. Funds will be disbursed on a first-come, first-served basis*.

The basic details of the Fund are as follows:

  • Budget includes $34 million to pay COVID-19 claims for essential workers;
  • Claims can consist of out-of-pocket health care costs, lost wages, and a $3,000 burial benefit;
  • Timeframe for eligibility: March 10, 2020 – July 20, 2021;
  • Permanently raises the workers’ comp burial benefit from $4,000 to $12,000 (for all claims – not just COVID) and then indexes it to inflation;
  • Any money awarded from this fund to essential workers will be deducted if they are awarded workers’ comp through the normal process (seffectively, no double dipping);

Council 4 Executive Director Jody Barr praised the creation of the Fund: 

“From school paraprofessionals to correction officers, Council 4 members put themselves in harm’s way to serve the public during the pandemic. Many of them contracted the virus on the job and face uncertain health outcomes as a result. They deserve to be compensated for their lost wages and health care claims. Our union wants to thank Comptroller Kevin Lembo and state legislators for recognizing the sacrifice and suffering of essential workers who got COVID-19 on the job.”

*We will have more information on how to seek compensation from the Assistance Fund once the Comptroller’s Office makes this guidance available.