Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

December 9, 2020

Lamont: Vaccines crucial to CT’s economic recovery

Photo | Hartford Business Journal Hartford Business Journal News Editor Matt Pilon and Editor Greg Bordonaro interviewed Gov. Ned Lamont via Zoom.

The start of a historic rollout of COVID-19 vaccines could be just days away, and with infection rates rising and the economy limping, Gov. Ned Lamont says the shots are crucial for the state’s recovery prospects.

“Our economy is on the razor’s edge right now,” Lamont said during a virtual interview with the Hartford Business Journal this week. ”To build up consumer confidence based on the vaccine, that is our end zone, that’s the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Pfizer’s vaccine could win U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval as early as this weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, following a review by the agency that concluded the vaccine met the standards for emergency use authorization. The FDA is set to review an emergency authorization for a second COVID-19 vaccine, made by Moderna, next week.

If they are approved, Connecticut officials expect that the state could receive well over 100,000 doses before year’s end, with as many as 200,000 per month after that.

Several hundred thousand healthcare workers and nursing home residents here are expected to be among the populations prioritized to receive the vaccine ‒ which has two doses per person ‒ in the near term.

Pfizer and Moderna have each touted vaccine effectiveness rates in excess of 90%, but it will take more time and study to understand whether immunity provided by the vaccines will taper off, and if so, how long it will take to do so, according to the FDA.

A White House coronavirus task force recently warned states that the vaccines won’t make a major dent in viral spread, hospitalizations or deaths until 100 million Americans are immunized, which will take until late spring, the Washington Post reported this week.

Avoiding higher taxes

As the sharps containers begin to fill, the Connecticut General Assembly is scheduled to convene, potentially virtually, in early January to kick off a six-month session that will produce a state budget for the coming two fiscal years.

While the pandemic has hurt Connecticut’s economy, Lamont said the state has performed better than some of its nearby peers. Tax revenues have held up better than expected. Plus, the state has about $3 billion in its Rainy Day fund, which is sure to come into play in the upcoming budget session.

“There were a lot of efforts to spend the Rainy Day fund last year when it wasn’t raining,” Lamont said. “This does give us some breathing room.”

He believes the state can get through the next two years without raising taxes, but there are some key variables, including how fast the economy recovers as well as what kind of additional stimulus might be forthcoming from Washington.

“The federal government needs to step up,” Lamont said. “We’ve got to help these small businesses. A lot of them are about to crash. I hear it from restaurants in particular, the desperation out there.”

The sooner Connecticut lawmakers know what federal relief they can expect, the sooner the two-year budget can be finished, providing some certainty to businesses and residents, Lamont said.

Also hanging in the balance is the potential for unemployment insurance premiums to rise, since the state has depleted its own unemployment fund, forcing it to borrow money from the federal government.

Lamont said he continues to hope that Congress will convert the loan to a grant to avoid the impact on employers, who pay the premiums.

Connecticut’s nearly $1.4 billion worth of federal relief funding received this year is dwindling, after being distributed to healthcare organizations, government operations, small business assistance, eviction prevention programs, nonprofits, arts organizations, and various other initiatives.

There’s far more demand than the remaining funds can accommodate, Lamont said.

“Everybody is lined up at the door looking for help,” he said. “We don’t have enough to bail out the state economy, but we do have enough to be of assistance.”

Lamont has now spent the majority of his second year in office managing a crisis he could never have anticipated.

“You play the cards you’re dealt, right?” he said. “It’s not what we were planning for.”

His handling of the pandemic has polled favorably among Connecticut voters this year, but just as he did a year ago, Lamont continues to brush off questions about running for a second term, insisting he’s focused on balancing the budget, fixing the state’s transportation infrastructure, and tackling pension and healthcare costs. 

“I don’t think about it at all,” he said of campaigning for reelection in 2022.

“Everybody in this building is running for office constantly. There’s too much campaigning and not enough governing.”

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF