Pelosi’s Coronavirus Bill Leaves Millions Without Paid Sick Leave

Nancy Pelosi’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed by the House of Representatives, on Saturday, March 21st, in hope to provide financial relief to Americans during the Coronavirus crisis. Though the Democrats began this process in the right place, it is being sold to America as the answer for unemployment in America due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a giant hole in leaving millions of Americans without paid sick leave. 

“If you are sick, stay home,” Vice President Mike Pence said at a news conference on Saturday afternoon. “You’re not going to miss a paycheck.”

But this is simply not true. 

Sick workers should stay home, but unfortunately, there is no guarantee in the emergency legislation that most of them will get paid.

The catch

The benefit only applies to companies with fewer than 500 employees. Anyone employed by a company larger than that — which is more than half of all American workers — would be ineligible. The bill guarantees sick leave only to about 20 percent of private-sector workers.

The bill does require some employers to provide full-time workers with up to 10 days of paid leave. But the requirement does not apply to the nation’s largest employers — companies with 500 or more workers, who together employ roughly 54 percent of all workers. (This includes fast food chains, corporate companies, etc.)

And the bill allows the Labor Department to grant hardship exemptions to businesses with fewer than 50 employees. That category includes another 26 percent of the workforce, meaning that fully 80 percent of workers may not be covered by this new legislation. 

Inadequate corporate responses 

After a Waffle House employee tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month, the company refused to promise it would pay other sick workers to stay home. Now, under the new bill, it would qualify for the big-company exemption. 

Some large employers, such as Walmart, have announced voluntary grants of paid sick leave for workers affected by the coronavirus. After a Walmart employee in Kentucky tested positive for the coronavirus, the company announced it would provide up to two weeks of paid leave for workers who fall ill or are quarantined because of a confirmed exposure to the virus. Other large employers, including Target, Gap, and Wawa, have made similar announcements. But such voluntary policies are an inadequate substitute for legislation during this time of global crisis.

What’s next

The legislation also is meant to provide some compensation for workers who need to take longer leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act — but this too excludes workers at big companies.

President Donald Trump has said he supports the legislation, and the Senate is expected to pass it sometime this week. 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act  breakdown:

Free coronavirus testing

Paid emergency sick leave

Family and Medical Leave Act

Unemployment benefits

Food assistance

Protections for health care workers


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