Senator advocates for universal paid sick leave, says it could’ve slowed spread of virus in US

Washington D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ One U.S. senator is calling for universal paid sick leave, which she argues that if the nation’s employees had it in the first place, it could have played a role in stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said that if all employees were provided paid sick leave, it would’ve provided an incentive for unwell employees to stay home.

“We’re the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t have access to paid leave,” Gillibrand said. “It really harms our economy and it really harms our recovery from COVID-19.”

Gillibrand said employees who don’t have paid time off may continue going to work even if they’re sick, which could have exacerbated the spread of the virus.

“We’ve seen these critical workers, who are the lowest-income workers, they’re the ones who don’t even have sick days and it’s shutting down our supply chain,” she said.

Gillibrand said increasing access to benefits like extended family and medical leave will make a real difference in the employment crisis during this pandemic.

“They would still be able to be employed, receiving their paycheck – up to 66% of their paycheck with a cap at $4,000 a month,” she said.

Shilpa Phadke with the Center for American Progress said the change would give workers the security they need.

“Only 19% of workers in this country had access to paid family and medical leave,” Phadke said.

Phadke said if the employees who didn’t have access to paid sick leave before are provided those benefits, “they’ll have confidence that they’ll still be getting a paycheck to cover their basic needs.”

But expanding paid sick leave faces a roadblock in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, said requiring those benefits would harm businesses.

“I don’t think we can move down a more liberal agenda and say we’re going to require businesses to provide that type of sick leave in all cases,” Rounds said. “You add a cost to a business and they may not be able to employ someone.”

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