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Emergency Paid Leave: The Way Forward

Emergency Paid Leave: The Way Forward

Since the COVID-19 pandemic took root in the U.S. in March, federal, state, and local officials have sought to enact legislative solutions to help the nation through this unfathomable crisis. A Better Balance has been working at every level of government to advance policies, including COVID-19 emergency paid leave laws, to ensure that workers aren’t forced to choose—during a pandemic and national crisis—between their personal or family health and their jobs. Around the country, momentum continues to grow for emergency paid sick leave, and we’re proud to share a number of new victories.

Recognizing that paid sick days are a crucial part of the path forward, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which for the first time in history, guarantees covered workers paid sick time to care for themselves or their family members when impacted by COVID-19. We worked hard with partners and key lawmakers to ensure the law was as strong and comprehensive as possible. However, even though the FFCRA has provided many workers with needed relief, the law currently excludes up to 106 million workers—many of whom are low-income workers and women of color. Through our Free Work-Family Legal Helpline (1-833-NEED-ABB), A Better Balance has heard from hundreds of workers who need Congress to fill the gaps of the FFCRA, and provide comprehensive, long-term paid leave nationwide. ABB has been working with partners and advocates to ensure that the HEROES Act, which would close the gaps in the emergency paid leave law at the federal level, is enacted.

In addition to our continued advocacy at the federal level, ABB has been working closely with advocates at the state and local level on the growing number of COVID-19 emergency paid leave laws to protect workers excluded from the FFCRA. We were proud to have worked closely on the emergency paid leave law that was enacted in mid-March in New York State, in response to COVID-19, and which was followed soon after with passage of a permanent right to paid sick time for New Yorkers’ general health needs. Additionally, A Better Balance drafted and worked on the ground in Colorado to successfully pass a comprehensive sick leave law. The Centennial State now provides COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave to workers carved out of the federal FFCRA, and will begin to provide accrued paid sick time and supplemental paid sick time for public health emergencies beginning January 1, 2021.

California in particular has seen significant action at the local level—as of September 22, 2020, 10 cities and counties throughout the state enacted emergency sick leave measures specific to COVID-19 that address gaps in the federal FFCRA. ABB was proud to have worked closely with key stakeholders and partners on the ground—including North Bay Jobs with Justice and the North Bay Labor Council—on successful efforts to enact COVID-19 emergency sick leave laws in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma County. The success of these local measures paved the way for the recent passage of California’s statewide emergency sick leave law, which provides emergency paid leave for certain workers not covered by the federal FFCRA and food sector workers for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

 Across the country, Philadelphia has also seen exciting sick leave developments, with passage earlier this month of a very strong emergency sick leave law. Now, in addition to the City’s permanent paid sick time law, many workers not covered by the federal FFCRA—including certain gig workers for food delivery network companies or transportation network companies—have access to emergency paid leave during a declared public health emergency. A Better Balance worked on the bill with our local partners in Philadelphia and testified in support of its passage. We especially want to congratulate our partners at SEIU 32BJ and thank Council Member Kendra Brooks for her leadership and work to ensure the law’s passage.

As the election nears and COVID-19 numbers continue to rise this fall and winter, the country is facing a long list of unknowns. But one thing is very clear from our legal helpline: too many workers across the country are being forced to make impossible choices during the pandemic, often to the detriment of their own well-being, the health of their loved ones, and larger public health needs. A Better Balance is dedicated to doing everything possible to support these workers across the country. With the momentum of these recent victories—from California and Colorado to Pennsylvania—we are continuing to work on paid leave laws in cities and states in every region of the U.S., in addition to our ongoing federal efforts. We know that paid leave for all is the way forward, especially as we continue to face this unprecedented pandemic.

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