Padilla Pushes to Reinstate COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick and Family Leave
In the first two weeks of January, close to a million Californians stayed home from work to recover from COVID-19 or care for someone who was infected
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following the 29th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the uptick in COVID-19 cases at the beginning of 2022, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and13 of their Senate colleagues in 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.
“As Americans continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are writing to urge you to reinstate and expand guaranteed emergency paid sick and family caregiving leave in the FY 2022 funding bill or in any separate COVID relief package Congress considers,” the Senators wrote. “Access to guaranteed paid sick and family caregiving leave is a critical public health intervention that will provide needed economic benefits for both workers and businesses as the pandemic continues. It will help American workers keep their jobs and allow more people to return to the workforce.”
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 program’s 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 their letter, the Senators request 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.
Throughout the pandemic, women have been disproportionately affected by job losses. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women accounted for nearly 60 percent 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.
Senator Padilla has called for the development of a comprehensive national paid leave program and co-sponsored the Healthy Families Act to provide more American workers the ability to earn paid sick days. Padilla also supports the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act to create a comprehensive national program that helps meet the needs of new parents and people with serious personal or family health issues.
Along with Senators Padilla and Gillibrand, this letter is signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).
The full letter can be found here and below:
Dear President Biden, Majority Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy,
As Americans continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are writing to urge you to reinstate and expand guaranteed emergency paid sick and family caregiving leave in the FY 2022 funding bill or in any separate COVID relief package Congress considers. Access to guaranteed paid sick and family caregiving leave is a critical public health intervention that will provide needed economic benefits for both workers and businesses as the pandemic continues. It will help American workers keep their jobs and allow more people to return to the workforce.
In order for the nation to continue recovering from the pandemic, we need people who are sick to be able to stay home to curb the spread of the virus. Furthermore, caregivers need the ability to stay home to care for a loved one. Americans need to be confident they can do these things and still keep their jobs so they can provide for their families. This is even more critical for women and people of color, who both have been disproportionately impacted by caregiving responsibilities and have borne the brunt of labor force disruptions. About two-thirds of parents with young children who left the labor force in 2020 were mothers, and Black and Hispanic women have suffered some of the largest increases in unemployment and drops in labor force participation during the pandemic, with child care issues playing a significant role.
Congress must pass a guaranteed emergency paid sick and family leave program immediately for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any new law should ensure that guaranteed leave is accompanied by tax credits for businesses with fewer than 500 workers to reimburse them for the costs of providing the paid leave; should apply to workers in business of all sizes; and must provide, at a minimum, 10 days of paid sick and family caregiving leave, including leave to receive – or take a loved one to receive – a vaccination, and to address school or child care closures.
The United States is one of the only high wealth nations that does not have a national paid family, medical or sick leave policy. Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 34 million workers did not have access to paid sick time, and nearly 8 in 10 workers currently lack access to comprehensive paid family leave. To provide support to workers and businesses during the early days of the pandemic, Congress, in the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA), enacted guaranteed paid sick and caregiving leave, but it expired at the end of 2020 and only applied to business with fewer than 500 workers. Because of the FFCRA, it is estimated that at least 22 million workers nationwide had the ability to stay home when they were sick without losing a paycheck or their job, and it helped prevent more than 400 cases of COVID-19 per day per state, totaling about 15,000 cases of COVID-19 per day. As the pandemic continues, we must build on what the FFCRA provided and expand that coverage to more American workers.
Between late December 2021 and early January 2022, with the latest surge of COVID-19 illness caused by the Omicron variant, about 8.8 million Americans were unable to work due to their own illness or the need to care for someone who was sick. An additional 5.3 million stayed home to care for a child who was unable to attend school or daycare, with closures and COVID exposures forcing parents to take on additional caregiving responsibilities. Unfortunately, millions of workers no longer have access to paid sick or caregiving leave through the FFCRA, and large companies that began offering 10 days of paid sick leave during the pandemic are no longer offering it. Congress should build on the success of the FFCRA’s guaranteed emergency paid family caregiving and sick leave to help ensure that workers can isolate, quarantine, be treated, and get vaccinated for COVID-19; care for a loved one who is ill with COVID-19; and care for and supervise children who cannot attend in-person school or child care.
Congress must reenact and expand the FFCRA’s guaranteed emergency paid sick and caregiving leave to help workers and rebuild our economy, as we work toward the creation of a permanent paid family and medical leave program for all workers in the long term. We urge you to make this a priority.