State officials breathing easier, slightly

January 25, 2019

HARTFORD — State officials felt a little less pressure Friday afternoon after a deal was reached in Washington for a three-week spending package to put 800,000 federal employees back on the payroll.

Gov. Ned Lamont had recently ordered department heads to report on the financial consequences that a prolonged partial shutdown, already in its fifth week, could have created.

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“Finally reason has won out and the Trump shutdown has ended,” said state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. “The president has caved after weeks of harming hundreds of thousands of federal workers across this country for no reason. I want to thank all my colleagues in the General Assembly, Governor Lamont, our local banks, numerous non-profits and food shelters, and so many more who have stepped up to help these families during this difficult government shutdown.”

On Tuesday, the General Asssembly, partnering with more than a dozen state lending institutions, set up a program of no-interest loans, backed by the state, for about 1,400 federal employees who live in Connecticut. It was the first legislation signed into law by Lamont.

The record-long shutdown could have some lasting effects long after it’s over.

“I think that federal employees are now going to always worry about shutdowns,” said Anne S. Evans, director of the Department of Commerce export assistance center in Middletown. “Nobody likes to be worried about their job. We’re very lucky, we’re very fortunate as federal employees that when there’s a shutdown we do eventually get paid… still there’s a lot of people that I’ve talked to that are now worried, that this is always going to hang over them.”

Late Friday afternoon, Evans stressed that the deal is just a deal, “So we’re not actually back to work yet until the president signs it.”

For Evans and her office, the shutdown led to a lot of scrambling, along with the private, nonprofit Connecticut District Export Council, to organize a May summit for space exploration contractors involving five countries; and a February trade mission to Australia.

“The minute that the president signs the bill, I will be on my email, I will be clearing out the several hundred emails that I have,” Evans said. “My guess is that we’re all going to be working some very long days for the next couple of weeks…..We’ve got companies waiting for services….. these things are all now backed up for a month……

“And we don’t get paid overtime to catch up.”

Columnist Dan Haar contributed to this report.

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