Members of Barkhamsted's Economic Development Commission along with representatives of several business organizations during the commission's meeting on Monday, April 20.
Members of Barkhamsted's Economic Development Commission along with representatives of several business organizations during the commission's meeting on Monday, April 20.
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Representatives from several organizations and businesses throughout the Northwest Corner discussed challenges and how they are being dealt with at the Barkhamsted Economic Development Commission’s meeting on Monday, April 20.
The meeting was conducted virtually via the teleconferencing app Zoom.
Speakers at the meeting all agreed that times have been challenging for businesses in the Northwest Corner due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been taking many, many calls, especially from small businesses, because of the concerns of their economic future,” JoAnn Ryan, President, and CEO of the Northwest Chamber of Commerce said. “They are worried about how they are going to stay open and if they are going to stay open. They want to know the resources that are out there to help them.”
Ryan directed local businesses to visit a link on the state’s Office of Fiscal Analysis website for a complete list of available stimulus programs: https://www.cga.ct.gov/ofa/Documents/year/BLKGT/2020BLKGT-20200402_Federal%20Stimulus%20for%20Connecticut.pdf
“It’s very long but it’s comprehensive,” Ryan said. “It lists the refunds, grants, and programs that are available.”
Ryan also spoke about troubles with the state’s unemployment program.
“I had a tearful call from a woman whose son is very ill, but he is unemployed because he was laid off,” Ryan said. “He has been waiting six weeks for his check, which he was previously approved to receive. We know that there are tremendous delays, but people are patient to an extent. We are trying to be a resource to connect people with those who have the answers. It’s a very trying time, but people are upbeat and they are working together, supporting those that they can. We are worried about the restaurants and the small businesses that have no income whatsoever, so it’s a trying time.”
The Chamber has set up a webpage for resources at http://nwctchamberofcommerce.org/resources-for-covid-19-national-emergency/
Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board Chairman Cathy Awwad said her organization has also set up a webpage with resources for both employers and employees at http://nrwib.org/covid-19-resources
“If there are any employers who need a workforce right now, including manufacturing, childcare, and healthcare, please contact us so we can add your opportunity to the growing list we’ve compiled,” Awwad said. “We have several employers who are all looking for help. The disconnect is that many of them are concerned because they are afraid to go out. They are afraid to go to work. We are hoping that this lessens and the curve starts to flatten. The disconnect is the additional $600 a week [for unemployment]. In some cases, people will find themselves collecting more unemployment than they would have made in a week.”
Awwad said that the extra unemployment funds may act as a disincentive for people to go back to work.
“Although that extra $600 does end in July,” Awwad said. “We expect that by mid to late June, anyone who was thinking that they were going to sit this one out for a little while is going to realize that the additional funds will be running out. They will be looking for additional work in earnest.”
Awwad said that one of the concerns she has had to frequently answer is “if you call people back to work, and they don’t come back to work, what are your options as an employer to contest continued unemployment?”
Steve Romano, Regional Job Center Director at the state’s Department of Labor, said this has also been a concern for the Department of Labor.
“We’ve instructed every employer who has a scenario where they made a bona fide offer of work or re-employment to an employee,” Romano said.
Romano said that, if an employee does not accept the offer, they should write to the Department of Labor directly or fax the department’s Merit Rating Unit at 860-263-6723.
“We’re now able to process more unemployment claims at a much faster pace,” Romano added. “Our unemployment division is working around the clock to come up with different strategies to accomplish this. We already knocked off 300,000 claims of almost 400,000 that were processed. We still have a large number of claims that need to be processed.”
Romano added that the department has added a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to help self-employed individuals.
He said that an application for the program will be online by Thursday, April 30 at http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/
Representatives from Northwestern Connecticut Community College’s (NCCC) Workforce Development
and Continuing Education were also present at the meeting.
The representatives said that, despite the physical college campus being closed, NCCC is still continuing to operate its workforce development programs.
More information about the programs are at https://www.nwcc.edu/continuing-education/

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