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Rep. Jahana Hayes joins Connecticut AFSCME members in praising benefits of ARP

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By AFSCME Staff ·
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Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.).

Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) joined AFSCME members from Connecticut in praising the benefits of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a landmark law that is already benefitting communities across the state as the coronavirus pandemic continues into its second year.

The law, signed by President Joe Biden last month, was made possible by everyday workers who raised their union voice to demand real action from the federal government.

It includes $2.9 billion in aid to Connecticut and $1.36 billion for local governments in the state, according to the White House. It also includes $1.1 billion for K-12 schools.

“That is significant, as we are trying to recover from the impacts of COVID,” Hayes said during the virtual event Wednesday. “This money can be used to provide premium pay for essential workers. We really worked hard to make sure that vaccines and access and distribution was a high priority so that workers could be safe and protected as they returned to their jobs in our communities. And we wanted to make sure that jobs were not eliminated as a result of budget cuts.”

Sean Howard, a correctional officer at Cheshire Correctional Complex who contracted COVID-19 on the job last year, said he still suffers from the long-term impacts of the disease.

“We have sacrificed and suffered tremendously during the pandemic,” said Howard, who is president of AFSCME Local 387 (Council 4). “Fortunately, the American Rescue Plan has brought needed relief to front-line workers in Connecticut.”

Among other things, he said, the ARP will help provide mental health services for health care professionals and public safety officers as well as “desperately needed” child care relief for parents like himself. In addition, some of the money may be used to provide specialized risk or hazard pay to essential workers.

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Left: Ed Hawthorn. Right: Sean Howard.

Ed Hawthorne, an appeal referee at the Connecticut Department of Labor, said the volume of unemployment insurance claims he and his co-workers have processed since the beginning of the pandemic “represents about 10 years of applications that we processed in just one year.”

The ARP, he said, not only helped the unemployed by extending benefits and increasing reimbursement rates but rescued Department of Labor employees “by funneling in desperately needed aid to our state, cities, towns and schools.”

This victory, he emphasized, “did not happen by chance.”

“It was a result of union members using their collective voice to advocate for our communities and the public we serve,” said Hawthorne, who is vice president of Local 269 (Council 4).

Joe Manes, a former employee of Torrington Public Schools who is vice president of the AFSCME Council 4 retiree chapter, said the ARP is helping “bring stability and safety to working families that have been on the front line for the last year by helping speed up vaccine timelines.”

The event was moderated by Jody Barr, executive director of Council 4, who said the new law lives up to the moment by providing needed relief to working families and immediate aid to state and local governments “at a time when it is desperately needed.”

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