Coronavirus Could Hit Families’ Finances

Millions of workers lack the sick leave that coronavirus could demand.

Nearly 27 percent of employees don’t have comprehensive paid sick leave.

But “good business is all about taking care of your employees,” said U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Md).

Workers without sick pay can’t afford to stay home when they are sick, or quarantined, one of the pillars of containing the national outbreak of novel coronavirus.

U.S. Rep. Rose DeLauro (D-Ct) introduced legislation Monday that would require all employers to allow workers to accrue seven days of paid sick leave and an additional 14 days in the event of a public health emergency. U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va), Trone and DeLauro with advocates held a conference call to discuss the proposal with reporters.

“Now is the time to move this forward, it makes all the sense in the world,” said Trone.

“This comes at a critical time. A quarter of workers don’t have comprehensive paid sick leave,” said Beyer.

Beyer pointed to data that shows that in cities that require paid sick leave, the rate of flu is significantly lower. “Not only is the worker protected, the whole community is a lot healthier,” said Beyer.

“This is an absolutely necessary piece of legislation,” he said.

Trone pointed to Maryland where the 2018 Maryland Healthy Working Family Act requires that paid sick leave be provided by all employers with more than 15 employees. (In 2018, Md. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) had vetoed the bill, but the Maryland Senate voted to override the veto.)

Maryland identified five confirmed cases of coronavirus, four in Montgomery County, as of Monday.

Virginia announced four cases of coronavirus as of Monday, three in Fairfax County and one in Arlington.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) cosponsored the emergency paid sick leave legislation, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and DeLauro.

“A public health crisis like the coronavirus underscores the urgent need to pass paid sick leave legislation. Workers deserve the flexibility to care for their health without fear of losing a paycheck,” said Kaine. “This legislation will help ensure that no American has to put their health – and the health of others in their community – at risk to keep their job.”

MORE THAN 32 MILLION private sector workers are unable to earn paid sick days. Workers of color and workers in low-wage industries are among the least likely to have access to paid sick days.

Deborah Ness is the president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “This is not a new issue. It has been hurting our workers and our families for too long,” said Ness.

“When emergencies hit, they often affect the people who work most closely with our public,” Ness said. Workers can’t afford to stay home and lose their pay check or possibly their jobs. “The situation is inhumane and dangerous for our nation’s health,” said Ness.

Trone and Beyer are both businessmen who tout offering paid sick leave to employees. Trone founded Total Wine which has 7,000 employees. Beyer’s family business, Don Beyer Volvo, has “about one-twentieth” that number of employees, he said.

Last week in the Virginia General Assembly, a bill to require some paid sick leave failed in the Virginia Senate just as Virginia’s first cases of coronavirus were confirmed.

The Virginia Senate failed to vote on the conference committee report on SB 481, that would have required employers to provide five paid sick days to employees. The Virginia House of Delegates had approved the conference committee report earlier.

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