By Brenda Sullivan | HTNP News Editor
The Connecticut General Assembly unanimously gave final approval today (March 6) for legislation that will create a special fund to assist workers who were traumatized by the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT. The Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Fund will be used to reimburse medical expenses and lost wages.
It will be overseen by the Connecticut Office of Victim Services and funded through private donations (including corporate donations), which will be handled by the United Way of Newtown.
Beneficiaries of the fund – which already totals more than $100,000 – are expected to begin receiving payments in April. Payments for lost wages and medical expenses will be limited to 52 weeks.
On Dec. 14, 2012 twenty first-graders and six educators – including the school’s principal – were killed by Adam Lanza, who later turned a gun on himself. Lanza also killed his own mother before his rampage at the elementary school.
ABCNews.com, reporting on “Raising Adam Lanza” – a collaboration between the Hartford Courant and the PBS news program, Frontline – says that Lanza suffered from severe mental illness.
Changing workers’ comp system
Many emergency responders – as well as school employees who survived the Sandy Hook shootings – have testified that they have been severely affected, emotionally and psychologically, by the sight of the children’s bodies.
State Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) today said she supported the bill because currently, the state’s Workers’ Compensation system does not allow for retroactive claims and it does not cover most workers for psychological trauma.
Sen. Osten serves as chair of the Connecticut legislature’s Labor & Public Employees Committee and is a member of the Public Safety & Security Committee. Her district includes several northeast CT towns, including Columbia and Hebron.
“This is the right thing to do, and it reinforces the need for Connecticut to update its workers compensation laws to include psychological as well as physical trauma. That’s why the Labor Committee just approved a bill that would cover instances of psychological harm in the future,” Sen. Osten said.
Those eligible for benefits from the Sandy Hook Fund include first responders, school employees and other professionals and volunteers involved in the Sandy Hook response or investigation.
The fund will be administered by the Office of Victim Services with the state treasurer managing its assets, Sen. Osten said.
Applicants must provide a diagnosis by a medical professional supporting their claim of “mental or emotional impairment” as a result of the school shootings, she said.
All claims must be filed by June 30, 2014.
Governor praises bi-partisan support
Gov. Malloy, remarking on the vote, said, “I want to commend members of the General Assembly, Democrats and Republicans, for coming together to provide relief to those who have been affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”
Referring to the ongoing, often emotional debates and protests about gun control that have followed this tragedy, Gov. Malloy said, “While 82 days have passed, the anguish of that day is still raw for many. In the depth of that anguish, we in government have undertaken a critically important debate, one where complete consensus will be difficult if not impossible. But that should not stop us from doing the good and decent things that honor those who serve our communities, especially those who have done so admirably in our darkest hour. It is moments like this that make me grateful for the opportunity to serve the residents of our state, and I look forward to signing the bill.”
Also commenting on the new bill, Lt. Governor Wyman said, “This bill is another example of how Connecticut has responded to this tragedy with unity and compassion and a real desire to do whatever we can to help those directly affected on that horrible day. I congratulate the leaders of both parties and their corporate partners in this effort and hope that this spirit of cooperation continues to guide us as we address the numerous and complex issues that Sandy Hook has presented.”
Shortly after a disturbed gunman killed dozens of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Gov. Malloy formed an advisory body to address problems and seek ways to prevent this kind of incident from happening in future.
To learn more about the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, including details on how to contact its members, visit www.ct.gov/SHAC
In related news, CTTalking.com reports that Boston-area volunteers have organized a fundraiser on March 23 at Fenway Park for a children’s museum in Newtown, CT. Read more at http://cttalking.com/sports/fundraiser-for-newtown-childrens-museum-at-fenway/
Posted March 6, 2013
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