Loan Program Seeing Interest from Federal Workers Requires General Assembly Approval

The Connecticut General Assembly will have to pass bills allowing the state to guarantee the loans provided by Webster Bank or any other financial institution to federal workers who are not being paid during the federal government shutdown.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced the new program with Webster’s CEO during a hastily planned press conference Tuesday night.

The program to provide no-interest loans to the 1,200 or so federal workers working without pay has been welcomed by both Republicans and Democrats, but if the state is going to guarantee them, then money needs to be set aside for that purpose.

“We have to vote on that. That would take legislative action,” said Rep. Matt Ritter, (D – Hartford), Majority Leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Ritter said he does not think there would be much to pick apart, because the loans do not provide much exposure to either Webster Bank or the State of Connecticut.

“It’s an emergency vote. It sounds like there should be bipartisan support. I think everyone just wants to make sure the state is protected in case it goes on too long,” he said during an interview Wednesday.

Sen. Cathy Osten, (D – Sprague), who chairs the Appropriations Committee, also said she expects a vote to authorize such an agreement, that would also be coupled with changes to Connecticut’s unemployment benefits. Osten wants to see some kind of benefit built in for the scenario of a government shutdown that would free up money for people who are working without pay.

“Helping out with cashflow,” Osten said. “So that people can buy gas, have food in their house and buy heating oil so that they can stay warm. It’s winter here in Connecticut and we need to have that there.”

Christopher Scofield works at Bradley International Airport. His job to make sure radar and landing systems at the airport are functioning properly for planes to take off and land safely is funded by the FAA. He’s been working without pay since the shutdown started.

“When I first heard about [the loan program], the first thing I thought of was, ‘what an opportunity," he said Wednesday.

Scofield has picked up extra hours at his second job to pick up lost income, which he said made for an 18-hour work day for him this week.

He said he’s not sure whether he’s going to take on one of the interest-free loans, but says the longer the shutdown goes on, the more likely it is that he will have no choice but to take one out.

“I think it’s a great opportunity and I’m glad that somebody is looking out and kind of helping us.”

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