It’s Time to Pay Essential Workers

           During this pandemic — which is officially two years old — there have been workers who have essentially kept this country going. We have acknowledged them with hearts on front lawns, thank you notes, and parades.
           I have maintained that the only way to truly acknowledge them is to pay them. Everything else rings hollow to me. From what I can tell, there hasn’t been much in the way of pay.
           Until this past week — finally.
           Last Tuesday, the state of Connecticut announced that it has set aside a fund of 34 million dollars accessible to eligible essential workers to compensate them for the work they did and the risks they took throughout the pandemic from January 2020 through July 2021.
          For some reason the fund is limited to losses incurred through July 2021, even though the pandemic did not end on that arbitrary date. But we had naïve hopes back then, didn’t we?
          In any event, this is a gift horse, so I will cease looking in its mouth.
          Let me tell you about the program. First, you can access information about it at www.ctessentialworkerrelief.org.
          All applications for the benefits must be submitted by July 20, 2022. The program is first-come, first-served, so it is best to act fast before the money dries up.
          Not every person who worked through the pandemic will be categorized as “essential.” To determine if you qualify, you will have to go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/categories-essential-workers.html.
          The program leaves it to the CDC job categories to determine who is an essential worker. Generally, essential workers are those who work in industries that are essential to ensure the continuity of critical functions in the United States.
          You need to have been a resident of Connecticut between March 10, 2020 and July 20, 2021 and have been employed as an essential worker during that time to be eligible. You must be able to prove that you or a deceased relative contracted COVID-19 during that same time frame and that you lost wages due to an inability to work after the COVID-19 diagnosis.
          Most healthcare workers will qualify. First responders will likely be eligible. Those are sort of no-brainers. But there is a host of other workers who kept us going while the pandemic has raged, including public works and utility employees, teachers and school staffs, store clerks and employees, corrections officers, courthouse personnel, state administrative workers, food and beverage manufacturers, childcare providers, transportation and communication personnel including non-federal postal and packaging services, news media, and banking and finance personnel.
          When you boil it down, just about everyone who went to work outside of the home was “essential.” If there is a question about eligibility, you should simply apply.
          So what are you entitled to under the fund? Generally the fund will reimburse eligible workers for lost wages, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and burial expenses.  
          You will need to gather the following documents when you apply: proof of a positive test or attestation by you physician that you were diagnosed or positive for COVID-19, proof that you went unpaid as a result of the diagnosis and that you did not have a remote-work option during that time, and proof of your earnings during the time.
          Once you have that information, you will be able to complete the application online.

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