Op-Ed: A signing bonus from your state government?

Jason Perillo

Jason Perillo

Contributed photo / Contributed photo

While an exploding stock market and a COVID-driven exodus of New Yorkers flocking to Connecticut has helped to create a budget surplus for the state this year, many of our small businesses have not fared so well during COVID. In particular, restaurants and small retailers have struggled. They are just beginning to dig out from the pain of the shutdown only to find themselves short-handed and in need of employees.

The governor has a plan to address this and $10 million of that plan is dedicated to a new way to get our people back to work — it's called a bribe. A $1,000 bribe to be exact. We've all heard of signing bonuses offered by private-sector employers to recruit and retain skilled workers, but a signing bonus from your state government? That doesn't seem right to me, especially when so many people have made the decision to go back to work on their own now that infection rates are down and vaccines are widely available to the public.

So, why does the governor find it necessary to beg residents to find a job? Well, some have found it more practical to sit at home and collect the supplemental $300/week benefits that they are free to enjoy without being required to look for work in the meantime.

Of course, these provisions made sense a year ago. Thousands were laid off as a combination of rising COVID cases and unprecedented executive orders wreaked havoc on a state economy still recovering from the Great Recession. Many could not find work and those who could had the very difficult decision of passing up those opportunities due to safety concerns (before the widespread availability of a vaccine) or risk going to work and contracting COVID. Fortunately, we have come a long way in our fight against the virus and our economic recovery.

Companies across Connecticut want to hire and there are plenty of people out there who are more than qualified to fill those positions. It’s time for our workforce to get back to work, if they are able to do so physically and safely. We do not need to spend more money to make this happen.

Perhaps, instead of handing out much-needed federal aid to people refusing to look for work, we simply end the lavish supplemental unemployment benefits that they no longer need and reinstate the job search requirement as a condition to collect. That should be sufficient incentive.

Governor Lamont would be wise to put that $10 million towards programs that actually need it, which could help suppress the push within the more liberal wing of his party to raise taxes on those who decided to go back to work when they should have.

Instead, we can take advantage of a record-setting Rainy Day Fund and billions in federal relief to get our state on better financial footing.

Now is the time for the state legislature and the governor to work together to do the right thing for the people who did the right thing and went back to work.

Bipartisanship is a good thing. I support the governor’s commitment not to raise taxes and I am grateful that he has chosen to push back on the liberal wing of his party. Connecticut Republicans are ready to work with him to steady the ship. But $1,000 handouts to bribe people into doing the right thing — go back to work — is not something I can get behind.