Today. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senate lead on the FAMILY Act, called on Congress to extend the bipartisan paid sick days and family leave provisions, authorized in March under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), in the next COVID relief package. The provisions are set to expire at the end of December, in the midst of a second wave of coronavirus that has prompted communities to renew stay at home orders and roll back business and school reopenings.
“The next relief package must include emergency paid leave provisions which have been a critical tool for keeping families safe and slowing the spread of this virus. As the second wave peaks and with possible renewed shutdowns, millions of workers will be forced, once again, to make impossible choices between caring for their family and earning a paycheck—unless there is a national paid leave program,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This policy received bipartisan support this spring because it not only protects jobs and the health and safety of workers, but it helps slow community spread and it is good for the economy. This crisis has shown that paid sick days and family leave is smart policy for the pandemic and our future.”
“Paid leave is one of our most affordable and effective tools to fight the pandemic. It saves jobs and it saves lives, and it has been a lifeline to working families. Congress passed emergency paid leave this spring, and applauded its passage on both sides of the aisle; voters in states across the country have said this is their top relief policy. If Congress lets this protection expire right as we go into the holidays and the peak of the pandemic, it will be a profound failure,” said Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All.
While the FFCRA required many employers to provide workers with two weeks of coronavirus-related sick leave at full pay, and up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave to care for family members at two-thirds pay, it is estimated that up to three-quarters of all workers were excluded from receiving these benefits. Despite excluding many workers, the provisions gave 22 million workers nationwide the ability to stay home when they’re sick, helping to slow the spread of coronavirus. A recent study in Health Affairs found that the introduction of the paid leave provisions helped reduce COVID infections by about 15 thousand cases per day. Now, as COVID-19 cases surge across the country and with paid sick and family leave set to expire, millions of workers are being forced to decide between their paycheck or the health of themselves and their families.
The relief package currently being negotiated fails to provide an extension of emergency paid sick day and family leave provisions. In addition to the extension of current provisions Senator Gillibrand is calling on Congress to include the PAID Leave Act (Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act). The legislation would close current loopholes that left out millions of workers and provide all employees with 14 emergency paid sick days and 12 weeks emergency paid family and medical leave. The PAID Leave Act would also permanently enact a paid family and medical leave program and ensure workers can accrue 7 paid sick days.
Senator Gillibrand has continuously fought to enact a federal paid leave program during the COVID-19 crisis and throughout her career. In March, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Patty Murray, and Representative Rosa DeLauro successfully secured the national emergency paid leave program with the FFCRA. Gillibrand later introduced the PAID Leave Act alongside Senator Patty Murray, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.