The State of Connecticut recently set up a pandemic bonus program, which is offering payments of $1,000 to “Coronavirus heroes.” The heroes are employees in various “essential” private-sector industries, where the workers were unable to do their jobs remotely.
State Comptroller Natalie Baswell recently said, “There has been incredible enthusiasm for this program. These workers were on the front lines during the worst of the pandemic, making tremendous personal sacrifices on our behalf.”
Well, this State program is not that narrowly focused. I know this is true because I qualify for a bonus. No, really. Me, Mr. Engineering Sales guy, actually qualifies. You see, one of the industries that was designated as “essential” is the construction industry. So, anyone connected in any way with construction and who was unable to work from home qualifies for a thousand bucks. Where I work we supply HVAC equipment to commercial contractors, and we’re not set up to work remotely. When the pandemic hit, our owners said, “Keep coming in to work, wear a mask, and don’t get near each other.”
And that’s what we did. We all came in every day, kept our distance, and no one got sick. Comptroller Baswell may think I was “on the front lines” and that I made “tremendous personal sacrifices,” but that’s not exactly true. Unless, of course, you consider eating lunch at your desk a tremendous personal sacrifice. That was the main sacrifice I made, rather than eat in the conference room or go out and grab something at Chick-fil-A or Subway. Oh, I also made the major sacrifice of wearing a chin hammock all day long, which I would pull up over my nose and mouth if anyone came near me. (Unless I had to speak and be understood. Then the mask would revert back to the chin hammock position.)
OK, now here is the really sad part of this story. Even though I am not even remotely a “Coronavirus hero,” I thought to myself, “Hmm, if they’re handing out free money, well, why not?”
So, I filled out the application and immediately felt really guilty about it. My conscience has been reminding me that I already received a wonderful bonus during the COVID pandemic: I never missed a paycheck. There are a whole lot of people out there who can’t say the same, especially in the restaurant and hotel industries.
An interesting twist is that the State set aside enough money to fund this program — but only if 30,000 or less people apply. As of a month ago, more than 10 times that number, well over 300,000 people, signed up for the bonus money. By the time everyone who is eligible applies, we all might end up getting a check for about 47 bucks.