In early March, Connecticut schools were open, restaurants were packed, and the state’s unemployment rate was a mere 3.4 percent. Seemingly overnight, the coronavirus changed everything for the people of the Constitution State.
Like most Americans, Connecticut residents were anxious about the implications of this unknown disease. The Connecticut Governor issued a stay-at-home order that closed all nonessential businesses and banned community gatherings. With businesses shut down, thousands of Connecticut residents lost their jobs. People were worried about how they were going to make ends meet.
For more than 35 years, the Yankee Institute has advanced policies to help Connecticans live a happy, prosperous life. With so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and the government’s response, people were looking for answers on what the executive order meant and what they should do next.
To help people find the information they needed, Yankee Institute created an online resource, “COVID-19 Resources and Q&A,” to share breaking news, laws, executive orders, and answers to common questions for individuals, families, and small businesses. They updated the page daily as the pandemic and its impact on public health and safety evolved.
But Yankee recognized that policy ideas were needed to protect another important aspect of citizens’ well-being: their livelihoods. Solutions had to be enacted quickly, or the people of Connecticut would face increasing economic uncertainty and financial hardship. And so the path ahead was clear: Yankee would bring policy solutions forward so thousands of Connecticut businesses and families could have hope and resources to make it through.
On March 18, 2020, Yankee released policy suggestions to mitigate the economic burden on Connecticans. Just days later, the Connecticut Governor adopted several of Yankee’s suggestions.
First, the governor implemented a hold-harmless tax provision for small businesses forced to lay-off employees. Normally, when businesses let go of employees, they have to pay more in state unemployment taxes. But during this crisis, businesses were forced to close and lay-off employees. This temporary hold on this tax increase will help ease the financial burden on business owners and help prevent businesses from closing permanently. Second, the governor waived occupational licensing requirements and filing fees for an extended range of services. An occupational license is essentially a permission slip from the government to work. Easing these regulations will help Connecticans get back to work more quickly. Removing annual licensing renewals will help businesses trying to re-open or continue operating during this difficult time.
As the crisis continued into April, other states were creating task forces to figure out how to reopen their economies. Connecticut hadn’t even discussed that yet. Yankee suggested the state convene a task force to determine how businesses can reopen. Two days later, the governor announced the creation of a task force for reopening. Yankee encouraged the governor to include representatives from a range of small businesses, who have been particularly hard hit by the shutdown.
Yankee’s work earned them a nomination for the SPN’s Bob Williams Awards for Outstanding Policy Achievement, where they were then selected as a finalist in the Biggest Home State Win category.
Yankee has several recommendations for state think tanks as they continue to advance policy reform ideas in response to the pandemic.