March 18, 2020

On Senate Floor, Gillibrand Urges Congress To Pass Paid Leave Act; Vows To Include In Next Economic Package

PAID Leave Act Would Ensure Paid Leave For All Workers During Coronavirus Crisis And Reimburse Businesses For Paid Days Used By Employees; Vote On Bill Earned Unanimous Support From Democratic Senators

KEG Floor Speech 3.18.20

**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to pass the PAID Leave Act (Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act) and put workers and families first. The bill would strengthen current weaknesses in the system, in order to help working families handle medical emergencies and the financial burdens they cause. The PAID Leave Act ensures that every worker in America has full paid sick and family leave, providing 14 sick days available immediately, and 3 months of COVID-19 related paid family leave, at two-thirds compensation. It enables the government to reimburse all employers for 2020 and 2021 for emergency paid sick and emergency paid leave, and covers all private sector employees and independent contractors.

Following her speech, the legislation came up for a vote and earned support from every Democratic senator. Together with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, Gillibrand has vowed to ensure the PAID Leave Act is included in the coming economic package.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:

Across New York State and the whole country, schools are closing, businesses are shutting their doors as we face this unprecedented crisis.

This public health emergency has exposed the weakness in our economy and in our system—we are not doing nearly enough for workers, their families and those who need to deal with medical and financial emergencies that this virus has caused.

Congress has a duty to look out for families, who are staring down uncertainty, fear and financial ruin. 

Our top priority must be strengthening our public health system and ensuring that hard-working Americans—who are facing this crisis due to no fault of their own—can keep their jobs, while taking care of themselves and their loved ones.

We must also ensure that businesses—many of which have been forced to close their doors in the name of the public good—do not have to cover these unexpected costs alone.

The PAID Leave Act ensures that every worker in America has full paid sick and family leave.

It strengthens their financial footing. 

It gives certainty and confidence to businesses.  

Congress has the responsibility to pass this legislation. It’s not only a health imperative but a financial one too. 

Unfortunately, our colleague, Senator Johnson, his amendment, is cynical and counterproductive.

This amendment would eliminate paid sick and family leave provisions in favor of providing coronavirus-affected people with unemployment compensation. 

So what he's saying is you have to actually lose your job if you need to stay home to care for a loved one or because you're sick yourself. And that's just wrongheaded because the truth is we want people to keep their jobs. 

We want people to be able to have their jobs be there when they get better or when their family member gets better. We want them to have their jobs after they recover themselves.

This is why paid leave and sick leave is such a better solution than just straight-up unemployment insurance.

Workers deserve protections so they don't lose their job just because their kids' school closed and they need to be home to look after them. 

Wouldn't any employee in America today prefer to keep their job and have paid sick leave rather than having to quit and take unemployment insurance? 

Wouldn't every member of this body and the President himself, President Trump himself want to keep unemployment numbers from exploding any further than they are already? 

While the unemployment system will continue to play a very important role for those who have lost their jobs, it cannot be the only answer.

I want to thank Senator Murray for her leadership, her steadfast advocacy for family and medical leave and paid sick days. 

This amendment is crafted to provide extraordinary economic stimulus and support to our businesses when they need it absolutely most. And most of all, it's giving certainty because people are afraid. 

They don't want to have to spread coronavirus to every person they work with. They don't want to have to leave their children unattended at home. They would love to stay at work, but under the circumstances, they cannot. 

Allow them to keep their jobs. Allow them to draw down on paid leave while their child is at home for a week, a month or three months. 

If they themselves are sick, God forbid, make sure they're not in the community spreading this virus. Make sure they can be home getting better and reemerging to do their work when they are well. 

Democrats stand ready to work with Senate Republicans to pass this important bill. We need to meet the need of the American people today. This is our duty in this grave time of need. I yield the floor. 

[...]

I strongly disagree with both my colleagues' statements. In fact, there is no administrative burden given to the small businesses. 

In fact, our bill is doing exactly what the small businesses want which is direct payment to the businesses, not a tax credit that they get many months in the future, but direct payments to them. 

I don't think unemployment insurance given to the states is going to result in immediate relief for the employees that need it, and again, you are creating a false structure. Requiring people to quit their jobs so they can care for a child who's been sent home from school is absurd. 

It is far better to have a national paid leave program in this country and unlike what my colleague said, it is not permanent. It is temporary and there is no administrative burden. 

I yield the floor to my colleague, senator — I yield to the floor.