Open Letter to Governor Ned Lamont, concerns economic conditions in the region

This is an open letter to Governor Ned Lamont from SE CT concerning economic conditions in the region.  State Senator Cathy Osten has asked us to share it and would also like to encourage us to please consider calling Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz’s office at (860) 301-1994 to ask her to support eastern CT by coming out in favor of modernizing gaming and supporting the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nations.

PDF of Letter:

Letter-to-Governor-Lamont-seeking-relief-for SECT 5 14 20

Text of Letter:

May 13, 2020

Honorable Ned Lamont
Governor, State of Connecticut
Executive Chambers
State Capitol
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Governor Lamont,

We commend you for your handling of the COVID-19 crisis and for prioritizing the protection of public health and safety during this critical time. You have given Connecticut residents a much-needed sense of security as we learn how to best live with, and among, the virus. As we enter this next phase of the crisis, however, southeastern Connecticut needs your immediate attention, particularly as it relates to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun and the entertainment and tourism sectors that support our regional economy.

We are blessed that Electric Boat (EB) has continued operating throughout this pandemic; and, we are proud of Connecticut’s long history in partnering with EB, including the investment of approximately $100 million in state taxpayer dollars, to assure their ongoing success. If EB were shut down, we trust that you would be in daily contact with their CEO offering your full support and engagement to get the company back up and running, and that you would do likewise for any other major employer in the state.
We are compelled to point out, however, that we have not seen that same sense of concern or attention directed to mitigate the closure of Connecticut’s two world class casinos and the furlough of thousands of employees. The economic output of both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun resonate throughout the whole of Connecticut, but nowhere is their impact felt more acutely than in southeastern Connecticut.
Norwich, as the largest city in the region, has over 11% of its population employed by either Foxwoods or Mohegan. That number doesn’t even account for the number of employees associated with the 164 vendors in the city that are part of the supply chain. By way of example, Norwich Public Utility revenue is down by 21.5% – a reflection of the fact that two of their top ten customers
are casino dependent and therefore closed. Given that the city benefits from 10% of the utility’s incoming revenue, Norwich will see an immediate corresponding deficiency as a result. This same scenario is playing out across southeastern Connecticut in small rural towns like Montville, Preston and North Stonington just to name a few.

It’s not just the casinos themselves that are closed. Stores, restaurants, hotels, museums, and more are all heavily reliant upon the casinos for their own prosperity. So, too, are municipalities across the state that see a portion the $280 million generated annually by the casinos in the form of grants under the Pequot/Mohegan fund.

The continued closure of the casinos is untenable. As the Governor of our state, we need you to be a partner in reopening Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in a safe and responsible manner. Our casino employees, their families, and other colleagues need to know that you are committed to this region. Paul Mounds and David Lehman have improved the lines of communication of late, but this situation warrants your direct and personal involvement.

You have been a leader in keeping us safe, we urge you to be that same leader in reopening our tourism and entertainment economy with the same focus. That can be done by modernizing Connecticut’s gaming policies through executive order. Allowing our state to compete with its neighbors, right now! It is time to put aside the political disagreements of the past and to focus on what we can do now to energize our state’s economy. Many of our daily interactions have gone virtual. Gaming policy should be no different.

Governor, we ask that you:

1. Personally, engage with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes to determine how the State can best assist the Tribes, support laid-off employees, and foster a platform for reopening Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun as soon as possible.

2. Fast track Access Health CT and Medicaid health care coverage enrollment for out-of-work employees.

3. Immediately authorize the Tribes by Executive Order to operate internet-gaming.

4. Immediately authorize Lottery to operate internet-keno and on-line lottery.

5. Immediately authorize the Tribes by Executive Order to operate sports betting.

Southeastern Connecticut continues to have among the lowest recorded COVID-19 infections in the state. We have done our part to flatten the curve due in large part to the quick responsiveness of our two Tribal Nations.

Now we ask for your help, Governor, in restarting the two economic powerhouses of our region. Please help us foster in a new modern era of gaming in Connecticut.

Sincerely,
______________________________ ______________________________
Catherine A. Osten Mike France
State Senator, 19th District State Representative, 42nd District
______________________________ ______________________________
Christine Conley Emmett Riley
State Representative, 40th District State Representative, 46th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Brian Smith Kate Rotella
State Representative, 48th District State Representative, 43rd District
Holly Cheeseman Kevin Ryan
State Representative, 57th District State Representative, 139th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Heather Somers Paul Formica
State Senator, 18th District State Senator, 20th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Anthony Nolan Joe De La Cruz
State Representative, 39th District State Representative, 41st District
______________________________
Norm Needleman
State Senator, 33rd District
Attachment

Open letter from CT General Assembly to our Federal Deligaition

This is an open letter from the CT General Assembly to CT’s Federal Delegation, suggesting further measures to be taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic:

PDF of Letter:

Letter to federal delegation 5 14 20

 

Text of Letter:

May 13, 2020

Honorable Richard Blumenthal
Honorable Christopher S. Murphy
Honorable John B. Larson, 1st District
Honorable Joseph Courtney, 2nd District
Honorable Rosa DeLauro, 3rd District
Honorable Jim Himes, 4th District
Honorable Jahana Hayes, 5th District
RE: Further Federal Action to Address COVID-19

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for your leadership during this national crisis. We would like to propose the following additional federal measures:

First and foremost:

1) Remove the SALT cap. The unfairness of this policy is further demonstrated in the impact on the economy as a result of the pandemic.

2) Grant States on a need’s basis the necessary funds via a grant to provide States Unemployment funds with 50% of the funds used in the first 6 months of 2020.

3) Provide grant funds necessary to stabilize state and municipal budgets impacted by the economic freefall as a result of the pandemic. Failure to do so will impact necessary funds for basic services such as police, fire, public works and human services.

4) Providing support for employers to continue coverage (e.g., payroll tax relief, refundable credit against employment tax withholdings for firms providing coverage, or direct subsidies of the employer’s premium obligation for each person on the employer’s sponsored plan beginning on the day the crisis was declared).

5) Providing that Tribal Governments be treated on a parity level with State Governments in terms of any federal relief efforts. It should be recognized that in Connecticut support provided by these governments helps the state, and every municipality with funds and jobs. At the outset of the pandemic they worked, as they always have, as a partner in controlling and providing aid to stem the tide of COVID-19. Their failure is a failure of the federal government in providing inadequate support to those who were here first.

6) Provide a block Grant to State Departments of Agriculture allowing the Commissioner of the respective state to distribute as they see best fit for their state’s impacted agricultural industries. Connecticut’s agricultural industry is at a critical point edging on a disaster its dairy, nurseries, growers, aquaculture, etc. are facing elimination without this support.

7) Increase Medicaid payments to non-profits, equivalent to nursing homes, who are more exposed to the Coronavirus due to their work with people with disabilities or mental health issues.

8) Finally, in order to bring back and support jobs develop a robust infrastructure plan that rebuilds dams, roads, bridges, railways, public housing, and other necessary pieces of an economy that works for all.

Below is an outline of other policies that should be updated to provide resources where they are most needed.

Unemployment

We ask Congress to act to support employers both for profit and not for profit negatively impacted by the economic effects of the COVID-19 so that they are able to open up business and fully hire back employees without the looming debt of the federal and states unemployment funds which is assessed by the number of employees each business has:

a. Eliminate the experience rate for the first 6 months of 2020 in any calculations concerning payback or replenishing the Federal UIF.

Health Care

We ask Congress to act to support employers negatively impacted by the economic effects of the virus so that they are able to continue offering coverage to their employees and to provide additional assistance to individuals who buy coverage on their own but whose livelihoods have been negatively impacted by

COVID-19

a. Establishing new funding to support coverage for those who lose their jobs by providing a 90% subsidy for COBRA or other insurance coverage.

b. Enhancing current financial assistance to lower the cost of premiums for those in the individual market by providing tax credits for those with incomes over 400% FPL and adjusting the tax credit formula by age to encourage younger people to purchase coverage.

c. Loan forgiveness regarding training and education loans for those identified as health care workers.

d. Establishing an insurance risk mitigation program that is applicable across the individual, employer, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid markets to provide protection against possible catastrophic claims and to address the additional risk being assumed by insurers as a result of the emergency. The program should be triggered if costs are higher than expected and be structured to cover a portion of the related costs for 2020 and 2021.

Tribes

We ask Congress to recognize that COVID-19 has had a devastating financial impact on Tribal Nations and their respective business ventures which, in turn, support the livelihoods and associated health benefits of thousands of employees by:

a. Ensuring that Tribal run businesses, including but not limited to, tourist attractions, entertainment venues, and casino entities, be afforded the same opportunities as all other businesses when it comes to applying for federal aid/relief.

b. Enhancing financial support to further supplement current unemployment insurance benefits and associated services.

c. Include state recognized Tribal Governments in having access as federal Tribal Governments to federal aid/relief.

Non-Profits

We ask Congress to act to support nonprofit employers negatively impacted by the economic effects of the COVID-19 so that they can remain open and keep employees and are able to assess tools available to for profit businesses by:

a. Providing a waiver akin to current waivers for other industries allowing nonprofits to apply for the PPP this would not have a cap of 2000 on the number of employees.

b. Include nonprofits workers within the Human Services as essential health care workers allowing them to access both testing and PPE on the same level as hospitals and nursing homes.

c. For nonprofits who work with an at-risk population, cover all expenses for supplies and measures taken to combat the Coronavirus.

Farms/Agriculture

We ask Congress to support Farms and Agriculture by providing flexibility to direct funds to most impacted local issues in parity with other SBA programs and provide immediate relief to deal with current cash flow issues.

a. Dairy – Immediate relief to help stabilize the dairy industry.

b. Payroll Protection Program Extension through October 1, 2020 that creates a farm operator carve out.

c. No interest loan through Farm Services Agency that would allow producers to apply for immediate relief on farm operations.

Small Business

We ask Congress to act to support employers negatively impacted by the economic effects of the COVID-19 so that they can open and keep employees and are able to assess tools available businesses by:

a. Expand the PPP program to push the date of eligibility to October 1, 2020.

b. Expand the SBA program to include a sole proprietor and 1099 component.

c. Require that credit card processing companies charge the same rate for all transactions.
Education

We ask Congress to ensure that there is equity in educational opportunities. The need is great in our urban centers and our rural areas (often ignored). We need an educational system that is equitable to all.

Infrastructure

A robust infrastructure plan is necessary to rebuild the economy. This should be patterned after programs available after the Great Depression.

Miscellanea

Require credit scores eliminate the period of January 2020 – June 2020 in score calculations.

Thank you for your continued leadership.

Yours Sincerely,
______________________________ ______________________________
Martin M. Looney Bob Duff
Senate President Pro Tempore Senate Majority Leader
State Senator 11th District State Senator 25th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Catherine A. Osten Derek Slap
State Senator 19th District State Senator, 5th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Norm Needleman Kate Rotella
State Senator 33rd District State Representative, 43rd District
______________________________ ______________________________
Christine Conley Mary Daugherty Abrams
State Representative, 40th District State Senator 13th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Christine Cohen Carlo Leone
State Senator 12th District State Senator 27th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Steve Cassano Will Haskell
State Senator, 4th District State Senator, 26th District
______________________________ ______________________________
James Maroney John Fonfara
State Senator, 14th District State Senator 1st District
______________________________ ______________________________
Joan Hartley Alex Kasser
State Senator 15th District State Senator 36th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Dennis Bradley Doug McCrory
State Senator 23rd District State Senator, 2nd District
______________________________ ______________________________
Saud Anwar Jason Rojas
State Senator, 3rd District State Representative, 9th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Toni Walker Cathy Abercrombie
State Representative 93rd District State Representative 83rd District

Emmett Riley Kevin Ryan
State Representative, 46th District State Representative, 139th District
______________________________ ______________________________
Joe De La Cruz Anthony Nolan
State Representative, 41st District State Representative, 39th District

Free infrared thermometers available to CT businesses of 100 or less employees

CONNSTEP and CBIA have partnered with the state of Connecticut to help distribute infrared thermometers to small businesses with 100 employees or fewer.

The thermometers, which can support workplace screening and health checks, are available free to Connecticut employers with 100 or fewer employees.

Eligible businesses can request a thermometer through this website.

Requested thermometers will be distributed based on the city or town in which the business is located.

Designated municipalities will contact local employers with the date, time, and location to collect requested thermometers.