Coronavirus: Senate Republicans block emergency sick leave bill as outbreak spreads across US

Senate Republicans[1] have blocked an emergency paid sick leave[2] bill aimed at helping deal with complications stemming from the coronavirus[3] outbreak, arguing that the federal government should foot the bill -- not employers -- for the measure that Democrats[4] claim is a public health imperative.

The Republican resistance to paid sick leave for employees in the United States[5] comes as the deadly virus continues to spread throughout the country, which has led state governments to consider their paid leave policies and how those might impact worker safety.

"Employees are struggling, our employers are struggling, and it's not a cure for the coronavirus to put a big new expensive federal mandate on employers who are struggling in the middle of this matter," said Republican senator Lamar Alexander[6], who spiked the bill in the Senate's health committee even though he also called it a "good idea".

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The measure was introduced by Democrats, who have argued that forced isolation for those who might come into contact with the virus could ruin people financially -- and that not paying for sick leave provides a dangerous incentive to employees to go to work even if they are sick.

"For many of our workers -- restaurant workers, truck drivers, service industry workers -- they may not have an option to take a day off without losing their pay or losing their job," said Senator Patty Murray[8], a Washington Democrat who tried to speed the measure through the health committee to the Senate floor for a vote.

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She continued: "That's not a choice we should be asking anyone to make in the United States in the 21st century."

The Republican effort to kill the bill comes as outbreaks have spread across the country, including in Ms Murray's home state of Washington -- where 281 cases have been confirmed alongside 24 deaths -- and Democratically controlled New York -- where 212 cases have been confirmed.

On Wednesday, as the Senate considered the emergency paid sick leave policy, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he would enforce a new rule ensuring at least two full weeks of paid leave for any government worker who cannot work because of the coronavirus.

"No one should face economic hardship because a quarantine prevents them from working," Mr Cuomo wrote on Twitter. "New York State is going to set an example by guaranteeing 2 full weeks of paid leave for all state workers who are quarantined or in isolation due to #Coronavirus."

Beyond state and federal governments, arguments that the coronavirus outbreak shows the need for paid sick leave in the US -- there are no federal mandates on this --have been met with some major companies in the US updating their sick leave policies in recent days, hoping to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Those companies include Walmart, McDonald's, Apple, Instacart, Uber, Lyft and Darden Restaurants, which operates the popular restaurant chain Olive Garden.

References

  1. ^ Republicans (www.independent.co.uk)
  2. ^ paid sick leave (www.independent.co.uk)
  3. ^ coronavirus (www.independent.co.uk)
  4. ^ Democrats (www.independent.co.uk)
  5. ^ United States (www.independent.co.uk)
  6. ^ Lamar Alexander (www.independent.co.uk)
  7. ^ Download now (independent.onelink.me)
  8. ^ Patty Murray (www.independent.co.uk)

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