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January 27, 2022

Daycare, paid sick leave on lawmakers’ agenda for mobilizing workforce

Photo | CT House Democrats Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven.

Ensuring access to affordable daycare and paid sick leave are among the priorities lawmakers outlined Wednesday morning as they prepare for the upcoming legislative session, which starts in February. 

The Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce hosted the second part of its 2022 Regional Legislative Forum, with the theme of “Mobilizing the Workforce.” The event was an opportunity for the area’s business community to interact with lawmakers.

State Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, said she is looking to address the need for paid sick days for people who have COVID. 

“People have had to choose between going to work sick and staying home and not getting paid,” Porter said, noting how some constituents live paycheck-to-paycheck and simply can’t afford to miss wages.

“We are definitely looking to make sure we give people what they need in order to stay well and to keep everyone else safe,” Porter said. “You should not be going into work sick with COVID and putting other people at risk.”

Not enough access to childcare has forced many women out of the workforce, she noted.

“Childcare is certainly one of our deepest concerns as we look to put people back to work this year,” Porter said. 

State Rep. Robin Comey, D-Branford, said access to affordable, quality childcare has been a struggle not only in Connecticut, but nationwide. It was a problem before the pandemic, which has only made it worse, she noted.

“For working parents, access to affordable childcare is a key ingredient so they can enter and return to the workforce,” Comey said. 

The pandemic has prompted some childcare center closures, and these businesses have had issues with adequate staffing when they are open, according to Comey. Finding childcare before 8:30 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m. is particularly challenging, she said.

“It is all linked to parents who are struggling to enter the workforce and get ahead in their career,” she said. “We can’t afford to put this on the back burner. There is not going to be an economic recovery without childcare being a part of the solution.”

State Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, said the work pipeline is one of her main concerns, noting the ongoing need for talent, particularly in the manufacturing industry.

Linehan indicated she is reaching out and talking to area manufacturers, and she invited those in the industry to reach out to her. 

“It is really important we start to talk about exactly what you need to get people back to work,” she said. 

Linehan has been involved in a student-manufacturer connection fair, in which hundreds of students have met with manufacturers, leading to pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships and jobs.

“How do we make that happen with COVID? We may be looking at another virtual year, where I can still connect students with manufacturers and work on those apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs,” she said. “If legislation needs to be done, then we will do that.”

House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, told those attending the event that he supports broad-based tax relief and addressing worker shortages.

“The unemployment compensation fund has been so generous,” Candelora said. “If we continue to give people money to stay home, they are not going to work. We have to make sure there is a balance between the programs that we are offering and making sure we are incentivizing people to go back to work.” 

The first of the two-part session, which took place in mid-January, featured lawmakers discussing ways to make Connecticut more affordable for businesses.

Wednesday morning’s event, which took place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was presented by AT&T Connecticut and Southern Connecticut State University.

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