With Connecticut flush with federal COVID-19 relief funds, the Democratic-controlled Appropriations Committee advanced a one-year, $24.16 billion spending plan on Thursday that attempts to address the pandemic’s continuing impacts. Along with a tax package that passed Wednesday, it will become the basis for closed-door negotiations between the General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who unveiled his budget proposal in February. Both the governor’s budget and the Democratic legislative plan focus heavily on addressing the continuing impacts of the pandemic, ranging from an increased demand for mental health services among children and adults to financial challenges faced by child care providers. Connecticut has roughly $373 million in funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to use in this year’s budget, Osten said. While much of the Democratic budget mirrors the governor’s proposal, there are a couple major areas where they diverge. For example, the plan advanced Thursday restores $454,355 that the General Assembly approved last year for the State Contracting Standards Board, enabling the agency to hire five staff members. The committee also included language that provides the board with budgetary independents, similar to other watchdog agencies like the Office of State Ethics.