Following the 29th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and uptick in COVID cases at the beginning of 2022, Senator Gillibrand is calling on the president and House and Senate leadership to reinstate and expand emergency paid sick and family caregiving leave in the FY22 funding bill or future COVID-19 relief packages. At the onset of the pandemic, Congress passed the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to provide guaranteed paid sick and caregiving leave to workers at businesses with fewer than 500 workers. Although the FFCRA did not cover all workers, the programs benefits gave approximately 22 million workers nationwide the option to stay home while sick without losing a paycheck or their job, and prevented approximately 15,000 cases of COVID-19 per day nationwide. In her letter, Gillibrand urges leaders to prioritize reinstating and expanding guaranteed emergency paid sick and family caregiving leave as a public health priority for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, Gillibrand requests that benefits apply to workers in business of all sizes, provide a minimum of ten days of paid sick and family caregiving leave, and be accompanied by tax credits to help businesses cover costs. Guaranteed emergency leave would also ensure workers have the ability to quarantine if needed, get vaccinated for COVID-19, and care for a child who cannot attend in-person school or child care.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to shine a bright light on the critical need for paid family and medical leave that we have in this country. While the FFCRA was critical to helping workers get emergency paid sick and caregiving leave benefits at the onset of the pandemic, the loss of these benefits has continued to put too many middle-class families, women in the workforce, and people of color, who are disproportionately shouldering the detrimental economic ramifications of COVID-19, in the difficult position of picking between caring for themselves or a loved one and earning their paycheck,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It’s been nearly 3 decades since we passed the FMLA and while we must continue to push for a national and universal paid leave program, Congress must act now to reinstate an emergency paid sick and family caregiving leave policy to help support workers and businesses as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. I urge congressional leadership and the Biden administration to prioritize expanded paid sick and family leave in future spending bills and I will be relentless in fighting alongside my colleagues to get this done.”
The United States is among the few developed countries that do not have a national paid sick, family or medical leave policy. During the recent surge of the Omicron variant between late December 2021 and early January 2022, approximately 8.8 million Americans were unable to work due to illness or the need to care for someone who was sick, and an additional 5.3 million stayed home to care for a child who did not have access to child care. Nearly eight in ten working Americans lack access to comprehensive paid leave and too many have been forced to choose between a paycheck or caring for themselves or a loved one. Paid sick days and paid family and medical leave are critical to helping ensure the economic security of working families and stymie the spread of coronavirus.
Throughout the pandemic, women have been disproportionately affected by job losses. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women accounted for nearly 60% of the 4.2 million jobs lost between February 2020 and October 2021, with many forced to leave due to family considerations or because they work in some of the hardest hit sectors of our economy. These women, and particularly women of color, are also more likely to be employed in roles that lack paid sick leave and the ability to work from home. Without a permanent paid leave solution and emergency paid sick and family leave, more women are at risk of losing their livelihoods, more workers are at risk of getting sick when they can’t stay home, and our economic recovery is at risk of being stalled.
This letter is signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
For the full letter, please click here.