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Lack of Paid Leave in Proposed Federal COVID-19 Relief Package Jeopardizes Public Health & Gender Equality

Today's news that a proposed coronavirus stimulus package under discussion would not include any paid leave for workers, following the December 31st expiration of federal emergency leave benefits, is shameful. Let's be clear: In the midst of a surge in the spread of a deadly virus, Congress is forcing 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.
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The following statement on the new $908 billion stimulus plan proposed by a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers can be attributed to Dina Bakst and Sherry Leiwant, co-presidents of national legal advocacy organization A Better Balance:

“Today’s news that a proposed coronavirus stimulus package under discussion would not include any paid leave for workers, following the December 31st expiration of federal emergency leave benefits, is shameful. Let’s be clear: In the midst of a surge in the spread of a deadly virus, Congress is forcing 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 unemployment soars, 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.

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 families safe.”

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.

For more information, see our report documenting the experiences of workers who have benefitted from the emergency leave law and those who have been left out. As these protections are set to expire, an update to the report with additional stories is coming next week.

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