NEWINGTON â€“ Sen. Richard Blumenthal stopped by Stew Leonardâ€™s Monday to thank frontline grocery workers and endorse Senate Democratsâ€™ Heroes Fund proposal.
The senator was joined by Stew Leonard Jr., president and CEO of the grocery chain, and Daniel Gomez, interim CEO of the Connecticut Food Bank.
Gomez accepted a tractor-trailer truckload of non-perishable food from Stew Leonardâ€™s, facilitated by the 4-CT Statewide COVID-19 Relief Fund.
â€śWeâ€™re honored to have Senator Blumenthal here to honor people on the front lines working hard every day to put food on the tables of Connecticut residents,â€ť Leonard Jr. told the media, standing at a podium set up for the press conference in the Newington storeâ€™s parking lot.
Blumenthal took the opportunity to support the Heroes Fund, a proposal unveiled on April 7 aimed to â€śretain, recruit and rewardâ€ť workers in healthcare, the service industry and emergency response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eligible workers would receive $5,000 to $25,000 premiums in hazard pay, or the equivalent of $13 per hour raises on top of their regular wages through Dec. 31, 2020.
The program would also provide new recruits to these industries a $15,000 stipend for signing on to provide essential service during the pandemic.
â€śWe are living in a time of tremendous adversity, anxiety and anguish, but itâ€™s also a time to recognize those that are keeping us safe and healthy, the front-line heroes,â€ť Blumenthal said. â€śItâ€™s a time to celebrate these folks, like those at Stew Leonardâ€™s stores, who are exposing themselves to the risk of infection every day so people can buy essential food.â€ť
Gomez thanked the store for its generous donation, which will go to unprivileged residents in six Connecticut counties.
â€śThat trailer full of food translates to over 60,000 meals,â€ť Gomez pointed out.
â€śWe are living through a period of unprecedented hardship and heartbreak,â€ť Blumenthal added. â€śThatâ€™s why this donation is so important.â€ť
Stew Leonardâ€™s workers held signs showcasing some of the companyâ€™s new initiatives being implemented during this health crisis, including an express checkout lane designated for emergency responders and health professionals.
â€śAnyone out there who is a first responder, you canâ€™t cut in line at Disney but you can here,â€ť Leonard said.
Front end manager Jennifer Polaski was â€ścompletely shockedâ€ť to learn of the pay raise potentially coming to she and her colleagues through the Heroes Fund, if the proposal moves forward.
â€śIâ€™m totally appreciative and grateful,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s a little stressful working right now but helping people get food on their tables â€“ I wouldnâ€™t have it any other way.â€ť
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.