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Congressional Leaders Must Act to Extend Paid Leave in COVID Relief Plan

Emergency paid leave benefits remain a critical component of COVID relief, as the House recognized when it included a paid leave extension in the HEROES Act, passed with bipartisan support earlier this year. We call on Congressional leadership to reject any package that does not include an extension of emergency paid leave protections under the groundbreaking Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Congress must ensure that the next relief package includes the paid leave workers need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
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 Today, a bipartisan group of legislators released legislative text for two bills comprising their proposed $908 billion stimulus package. This proposed package reportedly fails to extend or expand the emergency paid leave protections in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which expire on 12/31.

The following statement can be attributed to Sherry Leiwant and Dina Bakst, co-presidents of national legal advocacy organization A Better Balance and longtime leaders in the push for strong paid leave laws on the federal, state, and local levels:

“That Congress is poised to allow critical emergency leave benefits to expire at the end of the month, leaving workers with no federal right to paid sick leave, is shameful. Let’s be clear: In the midst of a surge in the spread of a deadly virus, Congress’ inaction will force sick workers to return to their workplaces, against all public health recommendations.

Paid leave is a public health imperative and an urgent matter of economic justice. It is also a gender justice issue. As millions of women have been pushed out of the workplace without an adequate infrastructure of support for caregiving, Congress is cementing a devastating setback for gender equality in our nation.

At A Better Balance, calls to our free work-family legal helpline are exploding from workers navigating the pandemic. We hear every day from workers across the country, especially low wage workers and women of color, who are forced to make impossible choices as they struggle to protect their health, care for their children and other loved ones, and stay afloat economically. As COVID-19 cases surge and parents are once again facing school closures, we’ve seen firsthand how, for those who are covered, emergency leave protections have made a world of difference, allowing workers to keep their jobs and keep paying their bills in this crisis. Yet Congress’s inaction will rip away this critical lifeline exactly when workers need it most.

Furthermore, extending the essential protections in the Families First Coronavirus Response would offer powerful benefits at a low cost: the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that a two-month extension would cost just $1.35 billion, or less than 0.2% of a proposed $908 billion package. Emergency paid leave benefits remain a critical component of COVID relief, as the House recognized when it included a paid leave extension in the HEROES Act, passed with bipartisan support earlier this year.

We call on Congressional leadership to reject any package that does not include an extension of emergency paid leave protections under the groundbreaking Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Congress must ensure that the next relief package includes the paid leave workers need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

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ABOUT A BETTER BALANCE: A Better Balance, a national advocacy organization, uses the power of the law to advance justice for workers, so they can care for themselves and their loved ones without jeopardizing their economic security.

In December 2020, A Better Balance released a report, “Save Families First: Workers’ Voices & the Need for Action,” detailing accounts from workers across the country that demonstrate the critical importance of access to emergency paid leave.

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