Press Release

ICYMI: Following Gillibrand Questioning, Experts Confirm National Paid Leave Program Would Protect Workers And Older Americans In Nursing Homes Amid COVID-19 Crisis

May 27, 2020

KEG 5.27

*Watch Special Committee on Aging Hearing Video HERE*

In case you missed it, last week U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Special Committee on Aging, questioned experts on the impact of lacking a national paid leave program on the COVID-19 crisis in the nation’s nursing homes. Following her questions, expert witness Dr. R. Tamara Konetzka confirmed that the availability of paid leave would help keep sick and contagious workers home and keep older Americans safer as the coronavirus pandemic devastates nursing homes across the country. 

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: Thank you Madam Chairwoman. I appreciate this hearing very much. In my state in New York, the most terrible horror stories are coming out of our nursing homes. A lot of the people who have lost their lives have lost them in nursing homes. One of the concerns I have is for the workers who work there. And if we had had national paid leave in place, at the beginning of this, then any worker who had to take care of a family member, or was sick themselves, or had a child home, would have been able to keep their job, keep their healthcare, and take up to 3 months leave so that the schools being closed, or the length of an illness or sickness in the family…. And without that, we have no safety net that would structurally be there for our workers when they have this kind of emergency. And this pandemic is a perfect example of how it could have been used more effectively. 

So I want to ask Dr. Konetzka, do you agree that if workers, especially nursing home and home health workers, were allowed to consider their health or the health of their families by having access to comprehensive paid leave program, that that could better protect their patients and clients and slow the spread of this virus? 

DR. R. TAMARA KONETZKA: I think a national paid leave program would help in a number of ways. I think in a broader sense, providing paid leave for healthcare workers and long term care workers would allow them that flexibility as you just mentioned. It would also allow perhaps other people the choice of taking care of their parents or another family member instead of putting them in a nursing home. And so I think it would affect all kinds of decisions at the margin.