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Newtown COVID Cases, Deaths Increase Slightly As Grants For Job Programs, Nursing Homes Roll In



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After a relatively long period of decline, Connecticut’s number of hospitalized residents diagnosed with COVID-19 increased slightly in the latest report out of Governor Ned Lamont’s office. While the May 25 hospitalizations number only increased by five, it was in stark contrast to the mostly double digit declines that had been registered over the previous couple of weeks.

According to Newtown Heath District Director Donna Culbert, as of mid-day Tuesday, May 26, Newtown’s number of confirmed cases stood at 210, with 23 local residents lost to the novel coronavirus.

On May 22, the number of state residents diagnosed with COVID-19 edged past 40,000, and escalated to 40,873 by 8:30 pm on May 24. At that point, 706 individuals were currently hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 (+5), and 3,742 state residents had succumbed to the virus (+49).

That same day, positive COVID-19 cases surged past 15,000 in Fairfield County and stood at 15,213 by Monday, with 1,221 dead.

On Tuesday May 26, the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services (DRS) reminded state taxpayers about assistance available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, DRS is reminding taxpayers of the Priority One Taxpayer Assistance Program (Priority One), which is designed to offer assistance to businesses and individuals who have an existing collection matter with DRS. The new program connects taxpayers with a DRS professional, who will assist in developing a workable solution.

DRS has established the following dedicated Priority One hotline and e-mail address:

*DRS Priority One Hotline: 860-541-7650 — Monday to Friday, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm to speak to a representative, or to leave a voicemail

*DRS Priority One E-mail: DRSPriorityOne_CollectionsAssist@po.state.ct.us

The agency also reminds state taxpayers that the filing and payment deadlines for Connecticut individual income tax returns have been extended until July 15, 2020. The easiest way to file — and the fastest way to receive a refund — is through online filing, including via the DRS Taxpayer Service Center, which is easy, secure, and free to use.

Since Connecticut’s individual income tax return begins with federal Adjusted Gross Income, it is often beneficial to complete one’s federal income tax return first. Taxpayers who file a paper tax return will experience longer processing times for refunds.

DRS strongly encourages taxpayers and tax professionals to file electronically.

The DRS website includes answers to many questions, and a Frequently Asked Questions page that is updated regularly. Taxpayers who need to contact DRS may e-mail DRS@po.state.ct.us.

To reach DRS by phone during normal business hours – Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pn — call 860-297-5962; or 800-382-9463; or 860-297-4911 (Hearing Impaired, TDD/TT users only).

Nursing Home, DOL Funding

On May 22, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it was distributing 214 payments totaling $73,422,500 to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in Connecticut to help them combat the devastating effects of this pandemic.

During the current pandemic, nursing homes have faced unique challenges as their population of high-risk seniors are more vulnerable to respiratory pathogens like COVID-19. This funding, which supplements previously announced provider relief funds, will be used to support nursing homes suffering from significant expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19.

This support to healthcare providers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is being provided through the bipartisan CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act that is delivering $175 billion in relief funds to hospitals and other healthcare providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response. In allocating these funds, the Administration is working, among other things, to address the economic impact of COVID-19 on providers and doing so as quickly and transparently as possible.

According to a release, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the viability of SNFs in a variety of ways. Since the beginning of 2020, SNFs have experienced up to a six percent decline in their patient population as current and potential residents choose other care settings, or as current residents pass away.

In addition to nursing home residents, many SNF employees have also been diagnosed with COVID-19. These additional funds may help nursing homes address critical needs such as labor, scaling up their testing capacity, acquiring personal protective equipment, and a range of other expenses directly linked to this pandemic.

Each SNF will receive a fixed distribution of $50,000, plus a distribution of $2,500 per bed. All certified SNFs with six or more certified beds are eligible for this targeted distribution.

Nursing home recipients must attest that they will only use Provider Relief Fund payments for permissible purposes, as set forth in the Terms and Conditions, and agree to comply with future government audit and reporting requirements.

That same day, the Connecticut Labor Department announced it was receiving a $2.33 million federal grant to create temporary disaster-relief jobs for dislocated workers and other eligible individuals, along with employment and training services, as well as any necessary supports. The Disaster Recovery National Health Emergency Dislocated Worker Grant was awarded to assist the state as it continues to successfully respond to challenges resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.

“During these difficult times, this funding from the US Department of Labor will help our state get back to business even more quickly by providing jobs that have been created as a result of the pandemic, as well as the necessary training,” said State Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby.

Westby noted that the grant will be used to address critical needs resulting from the COVID-19 public health emergency that has impacted every part of the state, including the unprecedented surge in unemployed individuals; the public health crisis straining the healthcare infrastructure; and the increased demand for workers in disaster-relief and humanitarian assistance jobs.

“A wide range of Connecticut employers, including private-sector businesses, community-based organizations, and municipalities, will have the opportunity to leverage the funding to fill and create a variety of temporary disaster-relief jobs that support efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis. These jobs will provide re-employment opportunities and will help stimulate Connecticut’s economic recovery,” Westby said.

The agency expects the disaster-relief jobs to fall into three job categories: cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting public facilities; delivering medicine, food, or other supplies to quarantined individuals and vulnerable populations; and health care support jobs to assist with sick and vulnerable individuals.

The Labor Department will partner with the state’s five regional Workforce Development Boards and their employer partners to implement these programs. The five Boards are Capital Workforce Partners, Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board, Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board, The WorkPlace, and Workforce Alliance. ­­­­

Assistance For Farms

On May 22, Lamont, along with US Congressman Joe Courtney, and state Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt encouraged Connecticut farmers and producers who have been impacted by COVID-19 to sign up and receive financial assistance through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which was authorized by Congress through the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The program, which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief nationwide, is available for producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and face additional significant market costs.

Eligible commodities include non-specialty crops, wool, livestock, dairy, and specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and mushrooms). USDA will consider additional crops to be eligible for the program by collecting information on potentially eligible crops, including aquaculture, nursery, and cut flowers.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications beginning Tuesday, May 26. While offices are open by phone appointment only, the department will be working with agricultural producers by phone and using e-mail and online tools to process applications.

For additional program details, including eligibility, applications, a payment calculator, and a list of locations of the nearest FSA offices, visit www.farmers.gov/cfap.

“This federal assistance is crucial for Connecticut’s farmers to continue their operations and maintain our state’s vibrant agricultural diversity,” Governor Lamont said. “Throughout all of the market disruptions, producers have continued planting, growing, and caring for their animals in order to meet the needs of consumers for fresh, local food.”

“This update from Secretary Perdue couldn’t have come soon enough for our dairy and commodity crop farmers in eastern Connecticut,” Congressman Courtney said. “Now, farmers can finally start preparing to apply on May 26 for the funding we authorized specifically to help them offset the steep price declines we’ve seen due to COVID-19. My colleagues and I on the Congressional Dairy Caucus are working to authorize more resources to help all of our farmers through this crisis, and we’re not letting our foot off the gas to press the USDA to expand these new direct payments to producers in the nursery and aquaculture sectors. Right now, I encourage our farmers to sign up as soon as possible to take advantage of direct payments through this new program.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how fragile our food system is,” Commissioner Hurlburt said. “We all know how important food is, but now many people understand how important it is to have a robust, local food system for people to access. These payments will support our farmers at a critical time and provide the funds necessary to stabilize our food supply chain. For residents who are interested in supporting local farms, please visit www.CTGrownMap.com to find farms in your area.”

Anyone in crisis or facing issues making ends meet or experiencing stress or anxiety can also call the 211 infoline or consult its companion website 211ct.org.

For the most up-to-date information from the State of Connecticut on COVID-19, including an FAQ, other guidance and resources, and a way to ask questions, Newtown residents are encouraged to visit ct.gov/coronavirus.

The Newtown Bee is continuing to provide and mirror information and messages coming from local and state agencies on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. Newtown residents can get more details by visiting Newtown’s own COVID-19 web page, at newtown-ct.gov.

Residents can also review all prior COVID-19 updates and follow the newspaper’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages for breaking local news and advisories.

Please check in regularly, share, and follow the newspaper’s hyper local coverage at newtownbee.com through the remainder of this public health emergency.

An unidentified man walks a pair of dogs along the paved trail at Fairfield Hills on May 17, passing the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps building and its flagpole. Flags had been lowered in recent weeks to honor those lost in the pandemic virus, raised briefly on Wednesday, and then lowered again on Friday at the direction of the President to continue honoring those who have died of COVID-19. The weekend’s lowering also honored Memorial Day on Monday, May 25.   —Bee Photo, Hicks
A display presented across multiple windows on the northern side of Educational Playcare, on Saw Mill Road, encourage passersby to Be Well and Be Strong.   —Bee Photo, Hicks
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