Pelosi calls for expanding paid leave in next stimulus package

Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said House Democrats demand that any subsequent legislation to help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic include an expansion of emergency paid leave.

The Senate is currently considering a House-passed bill to help prop up the economy amid the outbreak, but lawmakers in both chambers are already looking ahead to another stimulus package as markets remain volatile.
After initially passing legislation early Saturday morning that would expand paid sick leave as well as family and medical leave, the House passed another series of changes on Monday night to accommodate GOP concerns over the cost to businesses already hit hard by the social distancing measures put in place to clamp down on the spreading coronavirus.
In a statement Tuesday, Pelosi called for the next bill to ensure sick workers can access longer-term leave, expand the allowable reasons for using family and medical leave, allow refundable tax credits to help self-employed and gig economy workers and ensure first responders and health care workers have access to paid leave.

“During negotiations, the Democratic House will continue to make clear to the administration that any emergency response package must put Families First before any aid to corporate America is considered,” Pelosi said in the statement.

Under the latest House bill that is now awaiting Senate consideration, employees at qualifying companies that employ fewer than 500 people will be ensured 10 total paid sick leave days. That means companies will not be compensated for sick days they already offer. But businesses can be reimbursed for health care premiums for employees on leave due to the coronavirus.

In addition, the paid family and medical leave would now only be available to parents who need to care for children whose schools or care facilities are closed due to the coronavirus. Before the changes made on Monday, the legislation would have also allowed the use of the paid family and medical leave for adhering to quarantine requirements or caring for an at-risk family member.

Advocacy groups have criticized lawmakers for not going far enough with the paid leave requirements and argue they don’t cover enough people.

Pelosi notably did not mention any relief for specific sectors of the economy such as the airline industry, which is asking Congress for $50 billion to make up for the drop in air travel as people cancel their travel plans due to the coronavirus.

Earlier Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) pushed back against the idea of “bailing out” certain industries.

“If we’re going to follow up the House bill with another major economic stimulus package, which we must, our major focus cannot be based on bailing out airlines, cruises and other industries,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “We must first prioritize economic solutions that are focused on workers and their families.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that the Trump administration is leaning toward a plan that would send checks to Americans in the coming weeks.

“You can think of this as something like business interruption payments for the American workers,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.

He added that the administration is considering a plan that would only provide such checks to people based on their existing income levels.

“I think it’s clear we don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks, but that’s one of the ideas we like,” Mnuchin said.

Earlier this month, Trump signed into law an $8.3 billion bill to help boost federal, state and local agencies’ response to stop the coronavirus outbreak.

Tags Chuck Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 economic stimulus Nancy Pelosi Paid Family Leave Pandemic Steven Mnuchin

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