Connecticut ranks last in the nation for personal income

The state Department of Labor has completed computer programming changes that allow the state to make the $600 weekly stimulus payments authorized by Congress for people receiving unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials announced Tuesday.

With the first payments processed over the weekend, $89 million in stimulus benefits were being paid.

Applications are expected to open Thursday for a separate benefit, “pandemic unemployment assistance,” authorized by Congress for self-employed and gig workers who cannot work due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Officials said work is nearly complete on a system to process and pay those claims. Benefits will be retroactive.

“There are hundreds of thousands in our state relying on our Department of Labor to help get them through this crisis, and the state’s loyal and hard-working team never lost sight of that. This is a difficult time for so many, and I appreciate that these new benefits are being distributed,” Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The department was deluged with a wave of 402,000 jobless claims in six weeks as the pandemic forced the shutdown of schools, restaurants and many retailers and other businesses.

“The task was complicated, due to a 40-year-old mainframe using a COBOL operating system. Despite these challenges, we have now processed over 340,000 of the 402,000 claim applications filed since March 13,” said Kurt Westby, the labor commissioner.

The additional $600 weekly payment, known as federal pandemic unemployment compensation, is retroactive to March 29 and will be provided through July 20. Claimants can check their online accounts on the CTDOL website at for payments processed over the weekend. Retroactive payments will come as a lump sum by the end of this week.

A third new unemployment benefit also is coming: The “pandemic emergency unemployment compensation” benefit is a 13-week extension that allows eligible claimants to collect the additional weeks after exhausting the 26 weeks of state benefits. That will be available in mid-May and also is retroactive.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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