Essential Connecticut workers can apply for $1000 'hero' pay

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Up to $1,000 in pandemic pay is available for eligible, private-sector essential workers in Connecticut who were employed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a new website for applications up and running on Friday.

Workers must have earned $149,999 annually or less to be eligible. The $30 million Premium Pay Program will officially kick off next week, following this weekend's soft launch.

“Connecticut’s essential workers have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to keep our state safe and running." said State Comptroller Natalie Braswell in a statement. “This new Premium Pay Program is another way for us to return the favor.”

Funding for the initiative was included in the new state budget approved by the Democratic controlled General Assembly and Gov. Ned Lamont earlier this year. Sometimes dubbed “hero pay,” the funds will be distributed to critical workers such as grocery store employees and non-government medical staff who were on the job between March 10, 2020 and May 7, 2022 and unable to work from home.

Union officials in Connecticut have said more money is needed to compensate all of the essential workers who risked their lives during the pandemic. The Connecticut AFL-CIO, an umbrella federation of unions, voted last year to recommend roughly $218 million in unallocated federal pandemic funds be spent on pandemic pay.

The Premium Pay Program is one of two state initiatives created to help essential workers. A separate $34 million Connecticut Essential Worker COVID-19 Assistance Fund is also available to help those who lost wages and faced out-of-pocket medical expenses and burial costs due to COVID-19. Nearly $560,00 has been distributed so far, as state officials try to spread the word about the program. A link is available on the Premium Pay Program website.