Labor Shortage

COVID-Related Workforce Shortage Forcing Businesses To Adjust

CBIA says an already existing labor shortage is being magnified by the recent Covid surge.

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With the recent COVID surge and high demand for tests, many people are home from work this week. That has created a strain on many businesses trying to manage their organizations, despite a staff shortage. From manufacturing to retail, restaurants to childcare centers, industries of all kinds are feeling the effects of a workforce limited by the COVID surge.

“There’s a lot of anxiety out there right now and certainly businesses are feeling strained,” said Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) President, Chris DiPentima.

Lengthy lines have been at testing locations and at test kit distribution centers for days. People are desperate to get tested, while employers are also anxious to know their results.

School bus companies are among those feeling the impact of a staffing shortage. DATTCO of New Britain services 27 districts and has had to modify its workflow, with over 50 drivers uncleared to work. To accommodate, they’ve had to combine some routes. There’ve also been some delays in pickup and drop-off.

“We just ask people to be understanding because the people who are coming into work, they are doing the best they can under difficult circumstances,” said DATTCO Vice President of School Busses, Bryony Chamberlain.

While public schools feel a staffing strain, so are private childcare centers. Tuesday in New Britain, the state, with help from the National Guard, was distributing 50,000 test kits and 70,000 N95 masks, specifically to childcare workers. It's an industry sector feeling incredible stress.

“I have been talking to providers out there, some of them in tears. Both because they’re happy to have the tests and the masks, but also, they’re tired,” said Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye.

Jackie Lema, who runs Redwing Pond House Preschool in Ansonia, was there Tuesday after having to temporarily shut down her school.

“We had given parents the option not to come, and the great majority chose not to come,” Lema explained.  “We couldn’t afford to pay staff without them coming.”

Lema says her school has 30 children, ages 3 to 5, along with four staff members. Today she picked up supplies that she hopes will help provide peace of mind once her preschool reopens.

“This will help anybody who’s worried about their child’s runny nose. Which on a 20-degree day with a three-year-old is hard to differentiate,” she said.

Before clearing workers to return, many employers are requiring negative test results. However, the CBIA says antigen rapid home tests are now being accepted by some companies that once insisted on PCR tests.

"Businesses are very flexible, adapting to the current situation. And the current situation is may be requiring them to accept a lesser test," said DiPentima.

The CBIA says this situation is impacting businesses of all sizes but more so, ones that have a customer-facing staff or businesses whose employees do not have the ability to do their jobs while working remotely.

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