Governor Dannel P. Malloy today directed Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) Commissioner Glenn Marshall and Department of Social Services (DSS) Commissioner Roderick Bremby to begin implementing their plan to bring targeted services to individuals and families who are losing their unemployment benefits as a result of the state's declining unemployment rate. The plan will coordinate communications to affected residents, improve access to social service programs and increase awareness of workforce development programs.
Governor Malloy also announced that the United Way 2-1-1 will serve as a first point of contact and service connection for Connecticut residents losing unemployment benefits.
"While a lower unemployment rate is good news overall, for residents in jeopardy of losing their benefits, we have a clear obligation to make sure they are aware of the assistance that's available," said Governor Malloy. "Starting today, our Department of Labor and Department of Social Services have a clear mission -- to make sure that our state's safety net is in place and helping residents during this difficult time.
"The best thing we can do for the long term is to make sure we continue to create jobs," added Governor Malloy. "But for those residents facing the loss of benefits, I urge you to call 2-1-1 and take advantage of all the resources that are available. I want to thank Commissioners Bremby and Marshall for their work on this issue."
According to federal guidelines, Connecticut became ineligible for Extended Benefits when the state's unemployment rate dropped to 7.7%. Residents can still access 26 weeks of state benefits and 47 weeks of Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a decline in the number of unemployment claims filed in Connecticut of more than 1,000 -- the third most significant decline in the country.
The commissioners' report outlines several key points, in addition to mapping out the areas of the state that will be the most affected by the loss of benefits. For instance, roughly 60% of people who have already exhausted their benefits have not yet accessed DOL's One Stop Employment Services. In addition, the report estimates that 22% of exhaustees -- nearly 3,000 individuals -- may qualify for assistance from DSS if given the opportunity to apply.
Governor Malloy's plan calls for:
Intensive Communication and Outreach:
DOL and DSS will provide direct mail to individuals losing unemployment benefits outlining employment and social services programs;
Continually updated web-based information on DOL's website, including Frequently Asked Questions; and
Renewed training for DOL staff, to ensure the latest information is being relayed to exhaustees.
Improved Access to Social Service Programs:
Dedicated DSS liaison to receive and expedite applications for SNAP and other programs coming from the state's Community Action Agencies (CAA);
DSS workers will be temporarily assigned to CAAs to facilitate the application process; and
Automatic increase in benefits for individuals already served by DSS, where eligible.
Increased Awareness of Workforce Development Programs:
DOL and the state's five Workforce Investment Boards are targeting exhaustees who have not used workforce services to ensure they are aware of available programs;
New workshop at CTWorks Career Centers to communicate all available employment and training programs to exhaustees, and those soon to exhaust benefits, so that they can take advantage of training, placement and tax credit programs; and
CTWorks clients who have exhausted or those that will soon exhaust benefits will be given priority.
"We are working with community partners to make Connecticut's safety net services, including food and medical assistance, more accessible to citizens who become eligible after losing unemployment benefits," said Commissioner Bremby. "DSS, along with DOL, will be directly contacting residents affected by the benefit losses and asking them to call United Way 2-1-1 for one-stop information and referral. Special application assistance is being arranged at Community Action Agencies statewide, including by outstationed DSS workers."
"Our Employment and Training staff and our CTWorks partners will be prioritizing Extended Benefit exhaustees with an emphasis on engaging the 62 percent of the affected claimants that we have determined have not yet taken advantage of the free workforce services offered through the one-stop employment system," said Commissioner Marshall. "These specific individuals will be encouraged to meet with career counselors, work with résumé writing professionals and take part in a new workshop geared toward those that have exhausted benefits."
Richard Porth, President and CEO of the United Way of Connecticut, said, "United Way 2-1-1 is ready to assist those who are facing the loss of their unemployment benefits. 2-1-1 call specialists will screen these callers for eligibility for SNAP/food stamps, health care coverage, child care assistance and other benefits. 2-1-1 call specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist Connecticut residents find the help they need. Our 2-1-1 database can also be searched online at www.211ct.org."
Dr. James Gatling, president of New Opportunities Inc. and board chair for the Connecticut Association for Community Action, said, "Connecticut's network of Community Action Agencies will offer one-on-one assistance expressly for individuals losing unemployment benefits. Staff of our agencies will help prepare applications for DSS services, and coordinate closely with DSS staff and offices. We will also work closely with Infoline/2-1-1 to make sure people are assisted in navigating the system as conveniently as possible."