Congress Must Pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

“The National Employment Law Project (NELP) calls on the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to quickly pass, and the President to then immediately sign, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The Act addresses the health and safety, and economic security of workers and families in this crisis.

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“The Act directs OSHA to issue a vitally important emergency temporary, and then permanent, standard to protect health care and other high-risk workforces from contracting coronavirus. It will also provide 14 days of emergency paid sick leave to all employees who need to miss work during a public health emergency, including the current crisis. It further authorizes temporary longer-term paid leave for all workers who need an extended period away from work because of contracting COVID-19, being quarantined, or caring for someone who is ill or quarantined. And it would enact a sensible permanent paid sick days requirement that long should have been part of the workplace protections in this country.

“The bill provides much-needed funding to state unemployment insurance agencies to deal with a new influx of claims, and provides added incentive to states to engage in the practices we recommend, such as waiving work-search and waiting-week requirements, and making it clear that employers are not charged for virus-related claims. It would also help states set up much-needed work-sharing programs for worksites that are not quarantined but need to reduce hours available to workers.

“When coupled with all of the additional protections in the bill to help support families with low incomes and bolster our health care system’s response to this pandemic, there can be but one choice on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act: a swift yes vote followed by immediately signing it into law.

“To be clear, however, Congress then needs to get right back to work on the next round of response to this public health emergency and the impact it will have on our nation’s workers and our economy as a whole. The measures in this bill are a great first step to protect workers and their families from illness and economic ruin, but there is much more to be done to shore up our nation’s unemployment insurance programs, many of which are dreadfully underfunded and suffer from historically low recipiency rates. Congress and state legislators must act swiftly to improve this important social insurance program as well as to enact much-needed reforms to the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, as outlined in this brief.

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