Child care and paid sick leave on lawmakers’ agenda to mobilize workforce

Ensuring access to affordable child care and paid sick leave are among the priorities lawmakers set out Wednesday morning as they prepare for the next legislative session, which begins in February.

The Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce hosted the second part of its 2022 Regional Legislative Forum, themed “Engaging the Workforce.” The event was an opportunity for the region’s business community to interact with legislators.

State Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, said she is looking to address the need for paid sick days for people with COVID.

“People have had to choose between going to work sick and staying home and not getting paid,” Porter said, noting that some voters live paycheck to paycheck and just can’t afford to miss out. wages.

“We’re definitely looking to make sure we’re giving people what they need to stay healthy and to keep everyone safe,” Porter said. “You shouldn’t go to work sick with COVID and put other people at risk.”

Insufficient access to childcare has forced many women out of the labor market, she noted.

“Childcare is definitely one of our deepest concerns as we look to get people back to work this year,” Porter said.

State Representative Robin Comey, D-Branford, said access to affordable, quality child care has been a struggle not just in Connecticut, but across the country. It was a problem before the pandemic, which only made it worse, she noted.

“For working parents, access to affordable child care is a key ingredient for them to enter and return to the workforce,” Comey said.

The pandemic has caused some child care centers to close, and those businesses have had issues with adequate staffing when open, according to Comey. Finding daycare before 8:30 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m. is particularly difficult, she says.

“It’s all about parents struggling to enter the workforce and progress in their careers,” she said. “We cannot afford to put this on the back burner. There will be no economic recovery without child care being part of the solution.

State Representative Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, said the job pipeline was one of her top concerns, noting the continued need for talent, especially in manufacturing.

Linehan said she was reaching out and talking to manufacturers in the area, and she invited those in the industry to contact her.

“It’s really important that we start talking about exactly what you need to get people back to work,” she said.

Linehan participated in a student-maker connection fair, where hundreds of students met with makers, leading to pre-learnings, apprenticeships and jobs.

“How do we get there with COVID? We’re looking at maybe another virtual year, where I can still connect students with makers and work on those apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs,” she said. “If legislation needs to be made, then we will.”

House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, told attendees at the event that he supports broad-based tax relief and addressing worker shortages.

“The unemployment compensation fund has been so generous,” Candelora said. “If we keep giving people money to stay at home, they won’t work. We have to make sure there’s a balance between the programs we deliver and make sure we get people back to work.

The first of the two-part session, which took place in mid-January, featured lawmakers discussing ways to make Connecticut more affordable for businesses.

Wednesday morning’s event, which took place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was presented by AT&T Connecticut and Southern Connecticut State University.

Michael A. Bynum