SHELTON — The state is partnering with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and its affiliate CONNSTEP to distribute free face coverings to eligible, essential small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced the initiative Sunday. Eligible businesses include those defined as essential businesses by the Department of Economic and Community Development.

“The more proactive measures we can take to prevent the spread of this virus and keep everyone healthy, the sooner we’ll be able to reopen operations,” Lamont said. “We were able to secure more than 4 million masks this week that have replenished our supplies and put us in a position to support small businesses.

“I appreciate our partners at CBIA and CONNSTEP for partnering with us on this effort to get those needed face coverings out to essential employees,” added Lamont.

Eligible essential small businesses can request up to two free face coverings per employee by filling out the form found here.

“The distribution of face masks to Shelton’s essential businesses is an important step in preventing the spread of the virus,” said Public Safety Director Michael Maglione.

Maglione said Shelton has some 200 small businesses that fall into this category.

“The face masks are so important in protecting the owners and employees of these small businesses, which are the life blood of our community,” said Maglione.

Maglione said, while wearing face masks offers important protection, residents must remember that social distancing remains a major part of the virus mitigation measures.

Small businesses are strongly urged to create their own face coverings following CDC guidelines. This will ensure the limited supply of coverings go to small businesses that are struggling to secure their own supply.

Requested face coverings will be distributed next week through the municipality in which the business is located. The local municipality will then contact businesses with a date, time and location to receive the requested masks. The distribution will continue while supplies last.

The initiative is intended to help small businesses comply with the governor’s executive order requiring face coverings to be worn whenever social distancing is not possible, including in essential businesses.