Labor economist urges states to pass COVID-19 paid leave policies

02/10/22

A labor economist urged states to pass paid sick leave policies for COVID-19, arguing the action would “reduce infection rates” and boost household income and food security.

“People are going to get more sick and miss more shifts without the policy,” Aaron Sojourner, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, said on Hill.TV’s “Rising” on Thursday. “The low-wage workers are the ones who don’t have paid sick leave and they are the ones missing work a lot.”

This comes after California’s legislature passed a bill on Tuesday giving many workers in the state two weeks of paid leave for COVID-19-related issues.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act from Congress required certain employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave for COVID-19-related issues. But that expired at the end of 2020, leaving states to pass their own policies.

On Monday, the Economic Policy Institute released a study co-authored by Sojourner that found that working-aged Americans in households earning less than $25,000 annually as of 2019 were 3.5 times as likely to report missing a week of work because of COVID-19 symptoms when compared with households earning $100,000 or more.

Julia Raifman, an assistant professor for Health, Law, Policy and Management at Boston University and co-author on the report, stressed the importance of including low-wage workers in paid leave policies while speaking on Hill.TV’s “Rising.”

“People who work part-time, people who are independent contractors often have been left behind by paid leave policies,” Raifman said. “This is an important moment to recognize how important it is to include everyone in these policies and that ultimately it benefits everyone in our society.”

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