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Politics & Government

Sen. Gillibrand Pushing to Extend Paid Leave Program Slated to End by January

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A federal program that helped out many families who had to spend sick time at home during the coronavirus pandemic is about to run out at the end of the year.  New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is bringing attention to paid leave trying to extend it.

“It gave 22 million workers nationwide the ability to stay home when they are sick.  That’s a public health necessity when combatting an infectious disease like the coronavirus.  And it made a huge difference.”

Money to continue the program is not in the current proposal for a new stimulus plan.  Dawn Hucklebridge is Director of Paid Leave for All.  She says the measure is having invaluable impacts.

“…prevented over 15,000 COVID cases per day.  It saved countless lives and countless jobs.  It prevented countless evictions, hospitalizations, hungry children, and sleepless nights.  It allowed workers to get tested, to quarantine safely, to not have to choose every day between their actual life and a paycheck.” 

Hucklebridge notes the program since spring has only cost $1.35 billion, which she says is a fraction of the $900-billion dollar plan being debated in Washington.

“Voters even in battleground states named paid leave as their top relief policy; we asked.  They said it was what their families needed most.  More than 85% of voters support it across party lines.  Nearly 70% of small business owners want this relief in COVID (stimulus plan).”

Gillibrand says the impact on children is a particularly important reason to include paid leave for parents.

“I’m very worried that it’s not been included.  Before the pandemic there was only one slot in daycare for every 4 kids who needed it.  Post pandemic, there’s one slot for every 8 kids who need it.  So we need paid leave now more than ever because if children  have to stay home for school because schools are closed or parents are ill, or they’re laid off again, we need that kind of relief so parents can meet the needs of their families if they have to.”

Gillibrand adds the current crisis is to save this program so it extends past the end of the year. But the need is not over then.

“We need to pass the paid leave act, which not only provides 14 emergency paid sick days and 12 weeks of emergency leave and medical leave for all workers, but also creates a permanent, universal paid leave program.  That’s critical because the need for paid leave will not end when the pandemic does.”

OTHER CONCERNS ON PANDEMIC STIMULUS

Gillibrand believes Congress is well on its way to approve another round of COVID stimulus aid in the coming days, but she expects the final agreement to be disappointing.  One of the biggest exclusions, she believes, is federal help for state and local governments.

“Our state is the last resort.  That is the safety net funding.  So whether you’re talking about homeless shelters or domestic violence shelters or food banks, or education funding, all of that is through the state.  So if the state cannot balance its budget or even get close to it, it means there will be massive cuts to frontline workers.  And it is not good for the country and not good for our state.”