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Connecticut lawmakers have numerous opportunities this year to provide meaningful, long-term support for the state’s small businesses which, unfortunately, can be undermined by legislative changes to tax policy and workplace mandates.

 Small businesses are the heart and soul of our economy and the communities they serve —yet many are still struggling to recover from the pandemic as they wrestle with a series of challenges.

They are navigating soaring costs —in a state that’s already among the 10 most expensive states to run a business— and a worker shortage crisis that’s showing no signs of easing.

The General Assembly is reviewing real solutions to those issues, including bills opening the research and development tax credit program to small businesses, fully restoring the pass-through entity tax credit, repealing the sales tax on workforce training programs, and paying off the state’s federal unemployment loan debt. 

One legislative proposal in particular that has the potential to create transformative change is House Bill 6710.

This legislation is designed to lower the cost of health coverage for small businesses and their employees and improve the quality of that coverage.

It does so by leveling the playing field for small businesses, providing options to the same healthcare plan offerings as big companies are afforded and which few small businesses can access today. 

This also benefits small businesses by enabling them to compete for talent, especially in this tight labor market, by offering the same benefits provided by larger companies.

House Bill 6710 is a game changer. By permitting association health plans, the legislation lets eligible business and industry organizations and nonprofit groups aggregate their members and take advantage of the economies of scale by negotiating directly with insurance companies to design plans that meet their members’ needs.

House Bill 6170 has wide support from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers—a reflection of its viability as a real solution to a problem policymakers have wrestled with for years.

It is also supported by more than three dozen Connecticut business groups, trade associations, and nonprofit organizations, including the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

Such far reaching and bipartisan support speaks to the bill’s substance —both in terms of affordability and health plan quality.

Healthcare costs have continued to increase year over year, impacting the business community and, more importantly, employee access to affordable health insurance.

The lack of affordable options is a major concern for our member companies, with too many forced to choose between high-cost plans with limited benefits or not providing any coverage for employees.

House Bill 6710 is a real solution. Similar laws in Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Maine, Virginia, and Washington already allow small businesses these same innovative options to provide quality, affordable healthcare for employees.

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 1,900 businesses employing over 50,000 people across the state, fully supports House Bill 6710.

We urge lawmakers to vote to level the playing field for small businesses,  help them better compete in the healthcare insurance market, and provide employees the same benefits available to those who work for large employers while dramatically improve the quality of their lives.

Johanna Bond is President and CEO of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce