CNN: Paid leave protections are about to expire. Congress needs to act
CNN | Congressman Jimmy Gomez & Congresswoman Haley Stevens
When the pandemic hit in March, Congress recognized the urgent need for paid leave and quickly passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, granting workers two weeks of emergency paid sick leave at their full rate of pay or two weeks of paid leave at two-thirds their regular rate of pay for the purposes of caregiving and up to an additional 10 weeks of emergency paid childcare leave at two-thirds their regular rate of pay.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was a historic policy package that served as a lifeline for millions of Americans, but like most legislation it was far from perfect. Loopholes and regulations set by the Trump administration excluded more than 100 million workers -- including many essential employees -- from using the paid leave they deserved.
Paid leave should be a no-brainer. One recent study found there were 400 fewer coronavirus cases per day in the states that gained access to paid leave from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Paid leave is one of the best policy solutions for slowing the spread of the virus and helping to get this pandemic under control.
Not only will giving workers the capacity to stay home when they're sick help curb the spread of this virus, but it also gives workers peace of mind that they won't be forced to choose between their health and their job. With roughly 19 million Americans still out of work, we need to do everything we can to protect people's livelihoods. Paid leave can help do that by securing employment in the event workers or their families contract this virus and become sick.
Paid leave also helps boost broader economic recovery and growth. With strong paid leave policies in place -- along with local public health precautions and nationwide vaccine distribution -- consumers can go back to restaurants and stores without the fear of coming in contact with a sick employee. It stops the spread, keeps workers in their jobs and helps build confidence our country can reopen safely.
Paid leave also eases many inequalities that have only deepened during this pandemic. Not only will it help the women and caregivers who may have been pushed out of the workforce because of this crisis, but it will also offer relief to the frontline workers most vulnerable to the virus, as well as low-income workers, underserved communities and people of color.
In short, paid leave saves jobs and saves lives.
The United States remains one of the only countries in the industrialized world where workers still have to choose between their jobs and health, between their paychecks and caring for their family and between potentially infecting others or facing financial ruin. These are impossible scenarios that no American should be forced to consider.
This crisis calls for a substantive, pragmatic response from Congress. The only question before us now is whether or not we can answer that call by finally passing paid leave for all. We believe we can, but it can only be done together.