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A Fringe Unemployment Policy
In a last-minute effort to placate big labor’s demands, HB 5431 would take unspent money in a fringe benefits account in the Comptroller’s office and award unemployment benefits to striking workers. 

Initially, HB 5164 – a separate bill – would have taken money out of the unemployment insurance fund and given it to striking workers. But this has hit an impasse in the legislature. Instead of recognizing that this policy should not pass into law, legislators are using a separate bill to push the idea forward using unrelated funds. 

We do not need to expand unemployment benefits to striking workers. Connecticut is already home to some of the most robust labor protections in the country, which impacts the costs of buying a home and building a road. 

This new “Connecticut families and workers account” would receive a deposit of $3 million of unused funds which would give financial benefits to “low-income” workers in the event of a strike – low-income is not defined in the bill. This money should be returned to taxpayers instead of creating a new account and program. 

The account would be part of the Comptroller’s office, and when asked about the program, Comptroller Sean Scanlon noted the lack of details in the program. If it’s unclear to leading policymakers, how is the general public supposed to make sense of it? The lack of clarity makes it seem like the money could be given to a “low-income” resident to go on an elaborate vacation, which is great for them but not for taxpayers. 

If we do a simple back of the envelope calculation, we can also see how this policy, which will incentivize prolonged strikes, will result in many more tax dollars being allocated to it in the future. Let’s take just one company, Sikorsky, as an example: 

Sikorsky employs roughly 8,000 people in Connecticut. 

For the sake of argument, let’s say the bottom 25% of workers make around $60,000 per year at Sikorsky. 

Those 2,000 workers would collect over $1 million a week as a group under this new benefit assuming they’d collect about 50% of their normal income. 

This is just a simple calculation, and it is hard to know precisely how much money would be allocated to striking workers in this vague legislation. But it is easy to see how quickly these funds would be spent in the event of just one large company having a prolonged strike. 

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