Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order April 10 extending the shutdown of nonessential businesses to May 20.

The extension impacts the operations of restaurants, bars, and private clubs; off-track betting facilities; gyms, sports, fitness, and recreation facilities; movie theaters; large shopping malls; and amusement parks.

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"This is a war." Gov. Lamont speaking during his April 10 media briefing.

The governor's latest action references his March 21 order closing or restricting operations at nonessential businesses until April 22 and an earlier March 16 order impacting bars, restaurants, and gyms.

"This is a war that is never won," Lamont said during his daily media briefing. "It's a war that we have to figure out how we wind it down in the safest way possible for people.

"I know the urgency many of you feel to get back to your everyday lives but I’ve got to urge you one more time now is no time to take your foot off the accelerator, now is no time to relax the social distancing."

'False Start'

Lamont was asked when he anticipated lifting the order, saying the state is exploring antibody testing to determine who can safely return to work.

"When I think I can test workers and know that they're safe to go back to work and won't be able to infect others, when I know that we will have thermometers so we can test people going in and out of stores," he replied.

"I'm going to do this purely based upon public health. We're never going to get this economy going again unless we make sure we do it on safe basis, we don't have a false start, which we worry about."

"We're never going to get this economy going again unless we make sure we do it on safe basis."

Gov. Lamont

Lamont also extended the statewide school closure until May 20, ordered a 60-day rent payment grace period for residential tenants impacted by the pandemic, and allowed food trucks to operate, with a permit, at highway rest stops.

The governor first raised the prospect of extending the shutdown during an April 9 conference call with thousands of Connecticut employers.

"Everything we're doing at the state level, and I believe at the federal level, is figuring out how we can keep businesses intact," Lamont said on the call. "We're looking forward to revving the engines again."

He said a plan to "carefully bring people back to work" must include testing.

Loan Programs

Officials from the state departments of Economic and Community Development, Insurance, and Banking also were on the call, along with U.S. Small Business Administration district director Mark Hayward.

DECD commissioner David Lehman said there were "no immediate plans" to change the list of essential employers or issue additional workplace guidelines.

He said state officials were beginning to spend time planning how to restart the economy and begin the post-pandemic recovery—"something we hope to spend more time on."

DECD deputy commissioner Glendowlyn Thames said the agency is processing the more than 5,000 applications it received from small businesses for $50 million in short-term, zero-interest bridge loans.

"We will be communicating the next phase of loans to the applicants next week with the goal to get the money out before the end of the month," she said.

Hayward said the SBA has already approved hundreds of millions of dollars for Connecticut small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program and that more applications are being processed.

He added that sole proprietors and self-employed workers are also eligible for PPP loans.

Survey

Lehman noted that the U.S. Congress was discussing an additional $250 billion in funding for the $349 billion PPP initiative, which began accepting loan applications April 3.

"This is the most important program for small businesses in Connecticut where you can pay your employees and manage your payroll at this time," he said.

An April 7-8 CBIA survey of small businesses found 90% of respondents had applied for a PPP loan, with 75% of those saying their application was still pending.

Over two-thirds (68%) say the loan will help them meet their employee retention goals.

More than a third of respondents (36%) described the application process as satisfactory.

Insurance, Mortgage Relief

Connecticut Insurance Department commissioner Andrew Mais noted the governor's order for a grace period on insurance premium payments, adding that a number of insurers were also cutting auto insurance policy rates through premium credits.

When asked if the state would step in to address coverage gaps with business interruption insurance policies, Mais said any long-term fix "must come from the federal government."

"It's an issue that goes beyond the state and the insurance industry to manage," he said.

Banking commissioner Jorge Perez noted that his agency had negotiated mortgage payment forbearance for commercial and residential borrowers.