Connecticut is expanding its Shared Work program to allow companies hurt by the coronavirus pandemic to retain skilled workers.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced the expansion would begin the week of Oct. 5.

CBIA's Chris DiPentima, speaking at the Sept. 23 Shared Work expansion announcement , called the program "a hidden gem."

The state Department of Labor’s Shared Work program enables businesses of all sizes to temporarily cut employee work hours when business slows by using partial unemployment benefits to supplement lost wages.

This avoids layoffs and the possibility of losing skilled workers.

Lamont announced the expansion during a Sept. 23 visit to Middletown’s Pegasus Manufacturing, a 133-year-old design and engineering firm that has used the program to maintain staff while cutting costs.

“As we start to emerge from this, and we’ve started to see improvement, we’ll be looking to bring more people back, take people off work share, and then also go out and hire again,” said Pegasus general manager Nick Zandonella.

Mitigate COVID-19 Impact

Lamont said the state is committed to working to lessen COVID-19’s impact on Connecticut businesses.

“This program has helped many Connecticut companies over the years, and expanding it will allow these workers to keep their jobs, continue earning a paycheck, and help these Connecticut-based companies grow,” he said,

CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima was on hand for Lamont’s visit. 

Before taking over at CBIA this summer, DiPentima was division president of Leggett & Platt Aerospace, which includes Pegasus, a company his family owned before selling in 2016.

“We learned pre-COVID how difficult it is to find skilled labor when Connecticut had more than 6,000 job openings in manufacturing, and we’re still hearing this from growing companies,” DiPentima said.

“So it’s more important than ever for companies to hold on to their skilled labor—and the Shared Work program allows that.”

Workforce Retention Tool

He said Connecticut “has one of the top workforces in the country, if not the world.”

“It’s critical that we don’t lose those folks.”

DiPentima described Shared Work as “one of many tools in the tool box Connecticut has for employers.”

"It’s a hidden gem that some other states don’t offer and a great tool during downturns to retain workforce."

CBIA's Chris DiPentima

“It’s a hidden gem that some other states don’t offer and a great tool during downturns to retain workforce that many companies have spent tremendous amounts of money investing in with inside and outside training.," he said.

Sam Simon, co-president of Shelton-based, said the program is “vital” for the company.

“It enables us to keep our highly skilled workforce employed with their benefits,” Simon said.

“We’ve used this program during economic downturns and come out better and stronger—preventing layoffs and allowing us to continue the design and manufacture of our products.”

Program Parameters

Shared Work applies to companies with two or more workers that have hourly reductions from 10 to 60% of normal hours.

The lost hours cannot be related to seasonal separations.

The program runs for a maximum of six months for each employee.

From March 2019 to March 2020, the program served 288 companies and just under 2,900 workers.

But in just the last six months, it’s grown to 1,340 companies with more than 24,000 workers participating.

Lamont said the federal government will reimburse Connecticut’s Unemployment Trust Fund for costs associated with Shared Work—a bill Connecticut’s employers would normally have to pay.