The Connecticut AFL-CIO organized a candlelight vigil in Hartford Monday to pressure Sen. Lieberman to oppose cuts to entitlement benefits, extend unemployment benefits, and put an end to upper income tax breaks. About 50 Connecticut residents rallied outside Lieberman’s office the same day the senator was in the state announcing the creation of an eponymous scholarship fund and to expressing hopes that Congress will be able to reach a budget deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
As lawmakers in Washington try to reach a budget deal to avoid automatic sequester cuts, some have proposed restructuring entitlement benefits to reduce the deficit. “We don’t want that done on the backs of the people who can least afford it,” said Rev. Laurel Scott, pastor at North United Methodist Church in Manchester and a leader of the rally.
Some legislators suggest raising the Medicare eligibility age to scale back program spending. But 85-year-old Lois O’Connor, a member of the Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans, thinks this could be harmful to the nearly 600,000 Connecticut residents relying on Medicare, especially those who retire at 65. “Raising the Medicare age from 65 to 67 puts seniors in a powerless position…for two years they’d have to buy very expensive insurance before Medicare kicks in,” said O’Connor, a speaker at the event, which was part of a national campaign.
After the rally, leaders delivered a letter to Lieberman’s desk asking him to protect their benefits and extend federal unemployment benefits, which are set to expire at the end of the year. Connecticut labor activists a held a similar event in Stamford to appeal to Rep. Jim Himes.