In legislature, few pandemic-related bills see light of day
Before the state legislature’s current session began, lawmakers proposed more than a dozen bills having to do with the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, only a couple of which gained any traction.
Proposed bills prohibiting the state from mandating vaccinations and prohibiting employers and public officials from requiring proof of vaccination went nowhere in the Public Health Committee. Proposed pension benefits ― “hero pay” ― for teachers who worked throughout and after the pandemic stalled in the Appropriations Committee after the Connecticut comptroller announced the state would make one-time payments of up to $1,000 to qualified essential workers who worked between March 10, 2020 and May 7, 2022.
A proposal concerning the burden employers face due to funds owed the federal government for unemployment loans related to COVID-19 got a public hearing but advanced no further.
And then there’s Senate Bill 1005, “An act concerning a study of the post-pandemic needs of children,” which was reported out of the Committee on Children, which voted 16-3 to send it on to the full Senate for further consideration. Rep. Brian Lanoue, R-Griswold, the lone member of the southeastern Connecticut delegation serving on the committee, voted with the majority.
The bill calls for the Task Force to Study the Comprehensive Needs of Children in the State, which was established by legislation passed in 2021, to conduct a “needs assessment for children that identifies gaps between existing conditions and desired outcomes, and the extent to which such gaps are attributable to the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the committee, the task force “would provide recommendations for childcare facilities and group childcare homes and study the feasibility of changing school start times to improve the health of students.”
Those who testified at a Feb. 16 public hearing expressed support for the bill.
In written remarks filed with the committee, Michelle Piccerillo, secretary of the Connecticut Youth Services Association and Cheshire’s human services director, said the pandemic’s impact on Connecticut’s communities is only beginning to be felt.
“There is a consistent and highly concerning increase in youth reporting that they suffer from anxiety and depression, in youth suicide rates, in mental health related emergency room admissions for youth, and in youth substance abuse as our young people struggle to manage feelings of confusion, isolation, fear, grief, and social and school anxiety,” she wrote. “As the number of youth in crisis is on the rise, accessing mental health services has become increasingly more difficult, with waiting lists often multiple months in length and hospital beds scarce.”
A Ledyard High School student, Joshua Cayangyang, also provided testimony, writing that students of all ages were adversely affected by COVID-19 restrictions that kept them from attending school.