Maria Rosado, head of operations at Windsor-based Leipold Inc., had face masks for the precision machine shop's 45 employees, but discovered her stock had expired.

So she turned to a program from CBIA, CONNSTEP, and the state of Connecticut that offers free masks to essential Connecticut businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

Brian Fries
Atlantic Precision Springs' Brian Fries talks with Channel 3 Eyewitness News' Shawnte Passmore after collecting masks for his employees.

Within a day, Rosado had her masks.

"They were greatly appreciated," she said.

The program also helped United Centerless Grinding & Thread Rolling in East Hartford get masks for its 23 employees.

"They are super helpful with making our employers feel safer," company executive N.J. Goulet said.

Mandatory

Masks or cloth face coverings are mandatory in the workplace during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Everybody is looking for masks. No doubt about it," said Joe Brennan, president and CEO of CBIA.

But getting them is a problem for some essential small businesses, which is why the two organizations partnered with the state.

"CONNSTEP and CBIA are always willing to help out in any way we can," said Bonnie Del Conte, president and CEO of CONNSTEP.

"We were able to quickly add functionality to our PPE supplier matchmaking site to help match eligible, small businesses' requests with the state's efforts to distribute these donated surgical masks."

Essential Businesses

In less than a week, the program distributed about a quarter-million face masks to Connecticut small businesses with plans to give out a total of 500,000.

Alan Ortner of Sirois Tool in Berlin was able to get face masks for his 47 employees.

"I think it was great that the state found a way to get more face masks to essential businesses like ours," Ortner said.

The program has distributed about a quarter-million face masks to Connecticut small businesses.

Despite the pandemic, Atlantic Precision Springs in Bristol is awash in orders, manufacturing for the healthcare and defense sectors.

That means Atlantic's workers need masks, and the company was able to get them from this program.

Protecting Workers

Brian Fries of Atlantic said the challenge is keeping the economy going while protecting workers.

"It's tough to balance the safety and well-being of employees and also to keep production and operations going," he said.

"We're pleased to play a critical role in the process."

CONNSTEP's Bonnie Del Conte

The state distributes face masks to individual towns, which then hand them out to small businesses that registered for them.

Del Conte said 7,200 small essential small businesses registered for face masks as of April 30.

"By all accounts, it's working extremely well, and we're pleased to play a critical role in the process," she said.