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May 21, 2020

Reps. Pressley, Stevens Push for Paid Leave Expansion

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Haley Stevens (MI-11) led a group of 17 freshman Members of Congress calling on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to expand paid family and medical leave as Senate negotiations begin on the next emergency relief package.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in March, created an emergency paid leave program for private sector employers. Recent data has shown that due to loopholes in the legislation and exemptions created by the Department of Labor during implementation, only 17% of private sector workers would benefit. Over 100 million Americans are still without access to paid leave, including nearly nine million healthcare workers and emergency responders. 

The Heroes Act, which recently passed the House, would close these loopholes in the existing law that excludes millions of workers, including millions of essential workers on the frontlines of this crisis and would extend these protections through 2021. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

In the letter, Stevens and Pressley urged Speaker Pelosi to “fix these gaps by clarifying Congressional intent and covering as many workers as possible for both paid sick days and family and medical leave,” in final HEROES Act negotiations with the Senate. 

“Paid sick days and family leave is not a luxury, it’s a public health imperative that keeps us all safer,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Congress made historic progress by expanding paid leave and sick days in previous relief packages, but an estimated 100 million workers were left out because of this Administration’s calloused efforts to exclude many frontline workers, including health care workers and first responders. The recently passed Heroes Act reaffirms our commitment to universal access to these benefits for all workers, regardless of the size of their employer.  During this unprecedented public health crisis, no worker should have to choose between their livelihood and the health and safety of their family.  We must take bold action to ensure every worker in this country has access to the paid leave they need and deserve.”

“The United States is the only industrialized nation without a federal paid leave policy, and this pandemic is showing us the consequences of that choice,” said Congresswoman Stevens. “First responders, health care workers, food industry employees, and other essential workers should not have to choose between their financial security and their safety. Basic protections for sick days help retain skilled workers and reduce the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace. It is clear that the Families First Act was not enforced adequately, and too many workers across the country are still lacking these basic protections. A robust federal paid leave policy is not just the right thing to do, it should be a key part of our plan to safely re-open the economy in the aftermath of this pandemic.”

“The public health and economic crises brought on by the coronavirus are magnifying a long-time failure to enact paid leave protections for workers in the US,” said Dawn Huckelbridge of the Paid Leave for All campaign. “The workers showing up to do their jobs on the frontline each day should not be forced to choose between their lives and their livelihood if they or a loved one gets sick. We are incredibly grateful to Representatives Stevens and Pressley for taking up the charge with their fellow freshman to make sure that people in America are taken care of in this next relief package and can rely on the security of paid leave in times of global health, personal medical and caregiving emergencies.”

The letter is supported by the Paid Leave for All Campaign.

In addition to Congresswomen Stevens and Pressley, the letter was signed by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Cindy Axne (IA-3), David Trone (MD-06), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Andy Levin (MI-09), Katie Porter (CA-45), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Debbie-Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Lucy McBath (GA-06), Steven Horsford (NV-04), Angie Craig (MN-02), Colin Allred (TX-32), and Dean Phillips (MN-03).


The full text of the letter is below and can be found here.

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to support working families through the coronavirus crisis. We were honored to take part in the historic passage of emergency paid leave for private sector employers under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. As the only industrialized nation without paid leave, that is a milestone of which we can all be proud.

In the weeks since the Families First’s passage, however, it has become clear that further action must be taken to protect workers and their loved ones when it comes to paid leave.

Data has shown that due to loopholes in the Families First Act and further exemptions created by the Department of Labor’s implementing regulations, only 17 percent of private sector workers would be guaranteed paid leave under the law. That means up to 106 million Americans will be excluded from these protections. Of those, nearly nine million are health care workers and emergency responders who put themselves at risk every day caring for our communities.

We deeply appreciate your leadership in addressing these shortcomings by incorporating in the HEROES Act important provisions to ensure that families do not have to choose between their lives and livelihoods. We must do our part to keep them safe for the duration of the COVID-19 health crisis.

The next phase of the federal response to the coronavirus crisis is our chance to fix these gaps by clarifying Congressional intent and covering as many workers as possible for both paid sick days and family and medical leave. We encourage you to continue advocating on behalf of working families by securing these paid leave provisions in any final HEROES Act negotiations with the Senate. This is especially critical for our first responders, health care workers, and food industry employees, who deserve these basic protections if they or a loved one become sick amid this public health emergency.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and for your strong leadership in this crisis.