Which states were the best states in which to work during the initial months of COVID-19, as restrictions closed in on workplaces, schools, and communities across the country? It turns out that Connecticut ranked 5th best in the nation, according to a new analysis by Oxfam, “The Tattered Safety Net.”
Connecticut trailed only Washington state, New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts, and was just ahead of New York, D.C., Rhode Island, Vermont, and Oregon in the analysis, whi=ch ranked the states in three policy realms: worker protections (45 percent of a state’s overall score), health care (20 percent), and unemployment support (35 percent).
Connecticut ranked 8th in Worker Protections, 19th in Healthcare, and 3rd in Unemployment Supports, amassing a total score that ranked fifth on the review of state policies. The report notes that states in the Northeast have been among the most generous in supporting unemployed workers.
“Connecticut is the only state to offer all three housing protections: moratoriums on evictions and utility shutoffs, and a grace period on rent,” the report highlighted.
As it became clear that COVID-19 had changed the landscape for working families in the US, and around the world, Oxfam initiated a survey of states’ policies, aimed at offering an assessment of how well (or poorly) they were doing in helping residents cope in this time of great challenge.
Oxfam has produced an annual Best States to Work index since 2018. This year’s version of the index assesses and ranks how states are supporting residents during the pandemic. All data is based on state policies and laws in effect between February 15, 2020, and July 1, 2020, and does not capture the impact of federal programs including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the CARES Act, or the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.
Included in the three dimensions comparing state laws and policies are 27 data points that capture how states are helping working families cope—and survive:
Worker protections: Are states taking proactive measures to protect workers and their communities amidst a pandemic that involves a deadly airborne virus?
Healthcare: How are states protecting their residents’ health during a pandemic, especially given the limitations of a health insurance system often linked to employment?
Unemployment supports: How are states accommodating the millions who are suddenly, through no fault of their own, unemployed and without a steady income?
Oxfam, based in Boston and Washington, D.C., is a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty. The organization is dedicated to help people build better futures for themselves, hold the powerful accountable, and save lives in disasters.
“The pandemic has exacerbated challenges facing low-wage working families in the US—but it did not create them,” said Minor Sinclair, Oxfam America’s US Domestic Program Director. “Instead, it has revealed the ugly reality of deep, structural problems for millions of working families who risk falling into poverty, hunger, and homelessness.”
The index covers all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia (a federal district) and Puerto Rico (a territory). Worth noting: The workforce in DC measures roughly 800,000–larger than the total population of four states (Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and North Dakota). Puerto Rico has a population larger than nearly 20 states, with roughly 3.2 million inhabitants.
Among the subcategories included in the analysis: mandated paid sick leave, mandated paid family leave, protection against sexual harassment, pregnancy accommodations, protection against forced return to work, protection against retaliation, state-funded childcare for essential workers, state-mandated corporate immunity against COVID-19 cases, state-level loans and grants for small businesses, state Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements, social protections in public (face mask requirements) and state-defined essential occupations.
Also considered were expanded Medicaid access, expanded telehealth services, premium payment grace period, waived cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment, and expanded workers compensation due to COVID-19, as well as categories including a moratorium on eviction, moratorium on utilities shut off, rent grace period, and increased food assistance. The report notes that the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on women, people of color, and immigrants and refugees. “Their unemployment numbers continue to soar past overall rates. And, as schools remain closed or remote, working parents (especially mothers and single mothers) are being compelled to choose between childcare and employment,” Oxfam states,
In addition, the report pointed out that COVID-19 has “deepened inequalities on many levels, pushing many populations further into the economic and social margins. Millions who were struggling to stay afloat before the pandemic now face myriad new challenges: job loss, lack of care options, inadequate healthcare, and food insecurity.”
“When the income stops, so does the ability to pay the bills; the shadow of poverty—along with homelessness and hunger—now looms over millions of families.”
MetroHartford Alliance investors Foodshare, Salvation Army, Hands on Hartford, Oak Hill, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and Hartford HealthCare have also provided support throughout the state.