[Excerpt from Hearst Connecticut Media Editorial Board masthead, June 19, 2020]
Federal estimates show the unemployment rate, which skyrocketed at the start of the pandemic, will remain high at least through the end of the year. Thousands of people in Connecticut will remain in need of serious help to make ends meet, and that is not likely to change in the near term.
All that makes Gov. Ned Lamont’s comments this week on the future of unemployment assistance hard to understand. Lamont said he doesn’t see a need to extend the federal government’s $600-a-week unemployment benefit, saying it could discourage people from going back to work. “I don’t think we need that,” Lamont said of a program that congressional Democrats have proposed extending into next year, putting him in agreement with Republicans who seem uninterested in further stimulus as the economy recovers.
It also puts him at odds with state Democrats. “The $600 a week has been a lifeline not just for families across the state — but for our economy as a whole,” state Sen. Matt Lesser said this week. “Our economy is hurting because of a global pandemic, not because people don’t want to work.”
Meanwhile, the economic toll on the state is real and growing. According to census data as interpreted by DataHaven, some 47 percent of Latino and 33 percent of black renters in Connecticut reported last month they were not likely to be able to make their June rent payments, a direct result of lost work from the coronavirus, where people of color have been disproportionately impacted. Experts warn of the danger of a “housing apocalypse” as thousands of people are unable to pay rent or mortgages, resulting in evictions on a grand scale if unemployment assistance is not extended.