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March 4, 2021 Labor and Public Employees Cmte, HB 903

Public Hearing Testimony of 
Kurt Westby, Commissioner
Department of Labor
Labor and Public Employees Committee 
March 4, 2021

Good Morning Senator Kushner, Representative Porter, Senator Sampson, Representative Arora and members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with testimony regarding House Bill 903, AN ACT CONCERNING TECHNICAL AND OTHER CHANGES TO THE LABOR DEPARTMENT STATUTES. My name is Kurt Westby, and I am the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Labor (CT DOL).
The CT DOL supports the proposed bill, which includes several technical revisions sought by this agency. This technical bill seeks to set forth more appropriate time frames for economic forecasting that identify emerging regional, state, and national workforce needs. Currently, DOL is required to provide a 30-year forecast, however, data for a 30-year forecast is not available. Therefore, we are requesting a change to a 10-year forecast as the agency regularly forecasts for a 10-year cycle. This bill further looks to amend the statutory requirement that DOL appoint a job training coordinator to develop job training programs in the state. This requirement is duplicative of requirements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the development of job training programs that are covered by our state’s apprenticeship program and other training programs. The bill also removes the requirement for DOL to establish an interagency program coordinating committee for the purpose of aligning resources to implement job training programs. This task is handled by the CT Employment and Training Commission (CETC), now known as the Governor’s Workforce Council, pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order #4, and is thus duplicative.
This bill also seeks to amend statutes to add a definition of “pre-apprentice” that mirrors the statutory change made to CGS § 31-23 in the 2018 legislative session. Currently, CGS § 31-23 clarifies that a pre-apprentice may perform certain work that ordinarily a minor under 18 years of age would not be permitted to perform. The proposed bill simply codifies into certain labor statutes the appropriate definition of a “pre-apprentice” so that a pre-apprentice can earn additional on-the-job credits toward a Registered Apprenticeship.  It includes a pre-apprentice who is employed, on a part time basis, after school or as part of a Work Based Learning release program established by the school and an apprenticeship employer sponsor that is approved by the Office of Apprenticeship Training. In addition, the proposal seeks to correct that apprentices are not registered with the Connecticut State Apprenticeship Council, but rather are registered with the Labor Department.  It further amends the statute to provide that the Connecticut State Apprenticeship Council recommends rather than adopts standards for apprenticeship and related instruction, as well as policies for effective administration of the apprenticeship statutes. 
In addition, the bill amends the unemployment insurance statutes regarding the earnings period DOL uses to determine eligibility and weekly benefit amount for claimants who have been absent from work due to workers’ compensation injury or approved medical leave. This proposed change will ensure alignment with DOL’s unemployment insurance information technology modernization project.
The bill also looks to include a reference to the Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA) to reflect current practice as directed by the federal government. The RESEA program serves all new Unemployment Compensation for Ex-service members claimants, as well as claimants profiled as most likely to exhaust their unemployment benefits by helping them return to work faster.  If a claimant is selected to participate in a RESEA meeting, that claimant is scheduled for virtual services, by web or phone, with a staff member of one of the American Job Centers, and may request an in-person appointment when available (in-person appointments will be available starting February 16, 2021, if claimant is unable to do so by phone or virtually).  The meeting includes an eligibility assessment regarding unemployment benefits and a review of work search approach and efforts, as well as labor market information customized to the claimant.  The staff member then assists the claimant with developing a plan to address specific reemployment needs.  As DOL currently engages in the RESEA program, our statutes should reflect this.
Finally, we are seeking to have various obsolete statutes repealed, including the Connecticut Low Wage Employer Advisory Board, as it has issued its final report and is now moot. 
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony. I am available to answer any questions you may have.


Connecticut Department of Labor
An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer