BRISTOL â€“ Gov. Ned Lamont talked the stateâ€™s strategy for utilizing federal money and plans for post-pandemic recovery at a virtual meeting Tuesday morning with the Central CT Chambers of Commerce.
The meeting was attended by city leaders including Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, Justin Malley, economic development director, Councilor Peter Kelley and local legislators Sen. Henri Martin and Rep. Whit Betts among other area and business leaders.
Lamont said that his aim was to get a budget passed â€świthout broad based tax increases.â€ť He said that covid is â€śin the rear-view mirrorâ€ť and that the state will â€śopen totallyâ€ť on May 19. However, he said that hesitancy due to the pandemic has â€śslowed job creation.â€ť
â€śWomen and especially women of color are the hardest hit since they are often in the service industry, which has been among the slowest to come back,â€ť he said.
Lamont said that the state would be investing $11 million in federal funding and working with organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs to provide childcare and socialization opportunities to help parents get back to work.
â€śThere are eight million fewer people working in the nation now than a few years ago and there are 200,000 jobs that employers are begging to be filled,â€ť said Lamont.
Lamont said that while Connecticut did well to protect businesses with the Paycheck Protection Plan, hundreds of businesses were still lost last year.
â€śThere is a lot of opportunity for people getting back to work,â€ť he said. â€śWe can provide the training and the capital to help them to do so.â€ť
Lamont said that the pandemic has â€śforced people to take a second look at Connecticut.â€ť Massachusetts and New York had harsher covid-19 restrictions and, as a result, 50,000 people moved to Connecticut.
â€śThat hasnâ€™t happened in 10 years â€“ it seemed like Connecticut was out of favor with Millennials,â€ť he said. â€śNow there are a lot of young guys coming in with capital.â€ť
Lamont said the state planned to spend $15 million on its marketing campaign this year instead of the $1 million or $2 million spent in past years.
â€śNow is the time to look at Connecticut, enjoy our restaurants and our hotels and maybe stick around,â€ť he said.
Prior to Lamontâ€™s arrival, Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) provided some updates on the state economy that could help to inform questions for the governor. He stated that Lamont was now seeking a no-toll solution to the stateâ€™s transportation issues and wasnâ€™t seeking a tax increase as part of the state budget due to the large influx of federal aid. However, the stateâ€™s finance committee is still proposing a budget with a more than a billion dollar tax increase.
â€śThis is a very contentious area of debate that will take of the rest of the time in the session,â€ť said DiPentima. â€śThis proposal was passed narrowly, 22 to 20, with many moderate democrats coming out against it.â€ť
DiPentima did have some positive news as far as the state was concerned, however. He said that the legislature is working to fix the unemployment trust fund, which he said has been broken for 48 years, using $50 million in federal money. The state has also done more to recognize out of state licenses. Furthermore, he said that the state has seen 40,000 new business start-ups.
â€śConnecticut is experiencing the fourth best GDP growth in any state in the country; I donâ€™t remember the last time we were in the top 5,â€ť he said. â€śOur rainy day fund has also surpassed its cap, which will help us to pay off our long-term liabilities.â€ť
DiPentima closed out his statements saying that there are â€śtremendous opportunitiesâ€ť for Connecticut and that CBIA has been meeting with Lamont was well as local municipal and educational leaders to make sure that they â€śget it rightâ€ť and donâ€™t repeat mistakes that failed to get the state out of the 2008 recession.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.