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With PAID Leave Act, Democrats Aim to Close Loopholes in Coronavirus Bill That Left Out Millions of Workers

"This is good for workers, businesses, and critically, it will help slow the spread of the coronavirus."

Caregivers and nurses from Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center protest changes to their sick leave benefits in Los Angeles, California on Feb. 11, 2020 (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Three Democratic lawmakers aimed on Tuesday to fill the gaps in the House bill passed last week and amended late Monday, which leaves millions of Americans out of its paid sick leave provision.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced the PAID Leave Act to guarantee emergency paid sick leave to all American workers during the coronavirus pandemic as well as ensuring Americans can accrue up to seven paid sick days after the crisis is over.

"There has never been a more urgent need to expand paid sick days and paid leave to the workers of this country," said DeLauro in a statement.

As more than 5,300 Americans have tested positive for the respiratory illness, forcing patients and people who have come into contact with them to quarantine themselves and prompting government orders for schools, restaurants, and other establishments to close, the coronavirus pandemic "has made clear again that we must do more to support our working families," Gillibrand tweeted.

Under the legislation, workers would be guaranteed up to 14 days of emergency paid sick leave and 12 weeks of emergency family and medical leave. The bill would permanently enact the FAMILY Act, the legislation put forward last year by Gillibrand to grant all Americans paid family leave. It also requires the government to quickly reimburse employers for all paid sick leave days in 2020 and 2021.

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Last week, Murray introduced paid sick leave legislation which Republicans in the Senate rejected. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) blocked a vote on the bill, saying its provisions would be burdensome and expensive for employers. 

Since then, House Democrats passed the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, offering free coronavirus testing to all Americans and other assistance—but allowing companies employing more than 500 workers to skirt the bill's paid sick leave provision. On Monday, the proposal was amended, leaving out even more Americans.

"Our legislation will ensure all workers have paid sick leave while protecting small businesses that are suddenly finding themselves struggling," Murray said in a statement. "This is good for workers, businesses, and critically, it will help slow the spread of the coronavirus. We should get it to the president's desk as quickly as possible."

The legislation received praise from United for Respect, the grassroots labor rights organization led by Walmart employees, who would not receive paid sick leave under the House bill passed over the weekend.

"Our country won't get healthier if millions of retail workers are not guaranteed paid sick and family leave during this public health crisis," United for Respect organizer Melissa Love said in a statement. "In this crisis, I'm proud to provide our customers with the food they need, but corporations like Walmart have shown they are not up to the task of protecting the safety of employees or customers."

"The PAID Leave Act is the standard for the kind of comprehensive response we need," Love said. "We call for every elected official to support and pass this bill."

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