$1.9 Trillion Covid Relief Package May Not Include Paid Sick Leave

As a candidate for president, Joe Biden promised to get control of the COVID-19 pandemic with robust federal intervention and oversight–two qualities the Trump administration did not believe were necessary.

Days before being sworn in, Biden outlined details of a plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

As over 27 million Americans have now contracted the virus and almost half a million have died, President Biden made a bold announcement last week that through securing 100 million doses each from drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, the United States will be able to inoculate every American by July.

At a CNN town hall Thursday, he pledged 600 million vaccines will be available.

Yet the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” intended to provide imperative economic aid to struggling families and small businesses, as well as facilitate a national vaccination program to increase testing and inoculation, may not include guaranteed paid sick leave unless at least 10 Republicans sign on to it, which does not appear likely.

Absent sick-leave provisions, small businesses could expect tax credits for providing the option to offer employees paid time off.

The substantial bipartisan sick-leave policy that passed last March expired at the end of last year.

Paid sick leave is not a superfluous addendum to the legislation.

It would allow workers exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine at home without fear of losing income.

It would also provide workers time off to get vaccinated.

Parents could also use the time to stay home with their children relegated to remote learning or those unable to attend daycare.

New America think tank paid-leave specialist, Vicki Shabo, commented:

“It remains deeply disappointing and utterly incomprehensible that Democrats and Republicans can’t come together around a public health policy that would prevent COVID cases, help the vaccination process and help keep people in the workforce, especially women and people of color.”

While holding the congressional majority affords Democrats enormous potential to pass bills through the budget reconciliation process (a simple majority comprised of 50 votes plus a tie-breaker from Vice President Kamala Harris), reconciliation bills must impact federal spending or revenue. They must also not threaten to raise the federal deficit beyond a pre-determined threshold over the next decade.

A paid-leave mandate wouldn’t meet these requirements.

Republicans at the state level are already working on preventing paid-sick leave from ever becoming reality by introducing legislation to prohibit municipalities from instituting paid sick leave requirements on businesses.

Excluding paid sick leave will harm 87 million workers.

What can we do?

Contact our federal lawmakers at 202-224-3121, and inform them you expect them to work for ALL Americans.

This is especially important if any of your lawmakers are Republicans.

Although a longshot, we only need 10 to sign on.

Image credit: Monitor.civicus.org

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.