Gov. Ned Lamont shared his optimism with the Connecticut business community at a virtual breakfast event Wednesday morning hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, highlighting what he described as the success of Connecticut’s vaccination rollout and previewing potential partnerships for workforce development.
Predicting that will be a “great summer” for Connecticut’ business community, Lamont said he was proud that Connecticut was one of the first states in the region to begin rebounding from the pandemic.
“I feel like we’re in the ninth inning of this COVID year that’s been really brutal for small business, brutal for the kids, and brutal for our state and country,” Lamont said. “Thanks to a really aggressive vaccination rollout program, we’re going to get through this together.”
Lamont said that he hopes to use the more than one billion federal dollars coming to Connecticut’s education system over the next two years to partner with businesses for summer programs to combat learning loss.
While Lamont said he was proud to have kept more schools open compared to other states in the region during the pandemic, he said many students still experienced learning loss, and that his administration was thinking seriously about how to implement “summer learning camps” in partnership with local businesses around the state.
“We’d like to make a deal with you and all of the other attractions, museums, and aquariums here in the state to make sure we can provide services for each and every one of these kids as part of their learning camps this summer,” Lamont said. “I want this to be transformative, and I want each and every one of you, especially in the business community, to step up and help us think creatively.”
Lamont also shared plans to leverage federal education dollars to create dozens of certificate programs at community colleges tailored to the needs of specific employers in the state.
“Think in terms of your particular business, your particular needs, and we’ll create a certificate program,” Lamont said. “At the end of 16 weeks and 18 weeks, I’d like to think that working with you, they’ve got a job.”
In response to questions from business owners about when COVID restrictions could be relaxed entirely, Lamont said he was focused on maintaining restrictions that would protect the younger Connecticut residents who are driving most of the state’s cases, and that he would like to see “the vast majority of young people vaccinated” before reopening bars. Lamont loosened capacity restrictions last month, but distancing and mask mandates remain in place.
“I’m going to err on the side of caution when it comes to the masks,” Lamont said. “If you’re indoors, if you’re in close company, I appreciate what they’re trying to do in Florida and Texas, but I think here in Connecticut getting vaccinated is the best way that we break the back of COVID. Wearing the masks is the best way we can continue to slow the transition if any of the variants come up, and if we do that a little bit longer, it’s going to be a great summer.”