On March 6, the Connecticut General Assembly unanimously passed legislation that will provide additional support to workers suffering mental or emotional impairment due to the tragic shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
The Dec. 14, 2012 massacre by a lone gunman left 27 dead, including 20 children and 5 school employees.
Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, Senate President Pro Tempore Don Williams, House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, House Minority Leader Larry Cafero and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney introduced House Bill 6599, “An Act Establishing The Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Program and Fund, Clarifying the Calculation of Survivor Benefits, and Authorizing a Waiver of the State-Wide Mastery Examination Requirement for Certain Newtown Students.”
HB 6599 establishes a special fund to assist individuals who suffered psychological trauma as a result of their work related to the Sandy Hook tragedy. Those eligible for benefits from the fund include first responders, school employees, as well as other professionals and volunteers involved in the Sandy Hook response or investigation.
A coalition of unions representing many of the impacted workers, including AFT Connecticut, Council 4 and Council 15 (AFSCME police), formed immediately after the Sandy Hook shooting and worked cooperatively with legislative leadership to ensure passage of the law.
“We commend General Assembly leaders for uniting in a bipartisan fashion to help workers who suffered great emotional trauma from responding to the massacre,” said Council 4 Executive Director Director Sal Luciano.
"We must continue working together to honor the brave children and workers who died that horrible day, and to help the Newtown community heal," Luciano added.
The Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Program will be privately funded and administered by the state Office of Victim Services.
Luciano said Council 4 and other union coalition members will continue pressing for legislation that would have Connecticut's worker's compensation system cover treatment costs for mental illnesses resulting from future workplace traumas – something the system did until the lawmakers slashed benefits 20 years ago.