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Unemployment Tops 17%; Lamont Softens Stance on Benefit Extension

Gov. Ned Lamont. Photo courtesy of CTNewsJunkie.com

Gov. Ned Lamont softened his position on the federal $600 additional unemployment benefit, but said he still supports giving an incentive for people to return to work if they can.

By Christine Stuart, CTNewsJunkie.com

Labor officials reported Thursday that employment was up in June by 73,300 jobs, however, the unemployment rate is still around 16% to 17% due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The largest job gains in June were seen in those industries most impacted by pandemic closures – leisure & hospitality, trade, and education & healthcare,” Andy Condon with the Department of Labor said.

Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said Thursday that they have received 708,462 unemployment applications since March 13. That’s five years’ worth of applications over a five-month period.

The department has processed 685,820 of those applications and is currently working on applications filed since June 30. Westby said the processing time for applications has gone from six weeks down to two weeks.

The total number of benefits the state has paid out since March has been $3.8 billion.

The Unemployment Trust Fund balance is $122 million and Connecticut has yet to borrow any money to keep it solvent, but is prepared to do so, Westby said.

CBIA President and CEO Joe Brennan called the June employment report “a positive step,” while adding a cautionary note about the uncertain nature of the state’s economic recovery.

“Based on June’s preliminary numbers, we’ve now recovered 35% of the 291,300 jobs lost in March and April because of COVID-19 business shutdowns and restrictions,” Brennan said.

Brennan said the private sector accounted for 91% of the state’s COVID-19 job losses, adding that percentage was “certainly higher” as employment at Connecticut’s two casinos is included in the government sector.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ned Lamont softened his position on the additional $600-a-week unemployment benefit program approved by Congress as part of the CARES Act. Congress is currently debating whether to extend that funding, which expires next week.

In June, Lamont told the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce that the additional $600 per week “discourages work.”

He later supported the Republican proposal to pay a one-time, $450 stipend to people who return to work.

On Thursday, Lamont said he opposed the $600 per week because of the amount.

He said his objection “was specific to that amount of money.”

“As you just heard they’re probably going to negotiate what that total amount of true-up is going to be,” Lamont said.

Lamont said he still supports giving people an incentive to go back to work with a one-time payment.

“I want to make sure it’s an amount that also takes into account those who can’t go back to work because businesses are closed down and those who can go back to work – an incentive to go back to work,” Lamont said.

Republished with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com, all rights reserved.

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