Customers checkout in Walmart in Naugatuck.

(The Center Square) – Union leaders across Connecticut are calling on Gov. Ned Lamont to provide "hero pay" for essential workers who were available during the early days of the pandemic.

Eric Gjede, vice president of public policy at Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), told The Center Square that he thinks there are some American Rescue Plan Act funds that have not been completely spent, but this would not be the wisest use for those funds.

Union leaders are calling for hazard pay for those workers who risked their health and safety, and that of their families and loved ones, while remaining on the job.

Hazard pay is being sought for nurses, childcare workers, bus drivers, grocery and retail workers, building cleaners, firefighters, police officers and many others, according to the Norwich Bulletin.

Lamont's previous proposal sets aside $20 million for hazard/hero pay; this would still exclude thousands of workers.

Gjede said the few state or local governments that have contemplated hazard/hero pay target those who were in the workforce during the height of the pandemic. The current labor shortage is a result of people who left the workforce during the pandemic and have not returned.

"Regardless, Connecticut's problem is not low wages as we are one of the highest wage paying states in the country," Gjede said. "Further, since the pandemic, we have seen two minimum wage increases as well as many employers voluntarily offering even higher wages and signing bonuses, etc."

Gjede said although Connecticut employers pay the highest wages in the country, surveys indicate the state still suffers one of the highest costs of living and the highest costs of running a business.

"Lawmakers need to address the affordability of living in the state by cutting business taxes in the coming year," Gjede said. "This will result in a more affordable place for businesses and citizens."