COUNCILMEMBER BROOKS TO INTRODUCE BILL EXPANDING PAID SICK LEAVE FOR WORKERS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

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The bill will increase the number of paid sick days and expand who is covered during a public health emergency.

PHILADELPHIA— Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At Large) today announced a bill that would dramatically increase the amount of paid sick leave available to workers who continue to physically report to their jobs. The bill represents a growing interest among cities across the country, including Los Angeles and Washington D.C., to address the needs of the millions of workers excluded from federal emergency paid leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill will be introduced in Council on Friday, May 1.

As the COVID-19 virus has spread through Philadelphia, essential workers in public facing roles, many of whom are low-income people of color, are especially vulnerable to contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus. As of April 30, Philadelphia has identified 13,445 cases of COVID-19 and 516 deaths, with more cases confirmed each day. While residents are encouraged to follow the City of Philadelphia’s Stay at Home order to protect themselves and stop the spread of the virus, essential workers continue to go into work each day to maintain city operations.

Expanding paid sick leave and improving the conditions under which it can be accessed during a public health emergency is a critical step in protecting all Philadelphians from the spread of the COVID-19 virus and future public health emergencies. In the absence of accessible paid sick leave, workers are forced to put themselves and the general public at risk by continuing to come into work even if they are sick. The bill will cover any employee during a declared public health emergency who performs work for an employer while physically present for at least 40 hours a year.

While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act create some emergency sick time provisions for workers, they exclude many employees. In Pennsylvania, more than 3 million workers have been left out as a result of the law’s exemptions. Under current federal law, operating businesses with more than 500 or fewer than 50 workers are not required to provide paid sick time; employers can choose to exempt employees who are health care providers or emergency responders; and employees only receive 67% of their regular rate of pay if they must stay home to care for an ill family member.

The Public Health Emergency Leave Bill would address these shortcomings by adding new provisions to existing paid sick leave legislation to cover public health emergencies and disasters. These provisions will enable Philadelphia workers to more easily self-quarantine, stay home when COVID-19 symptoms appear, and care for loved ones who have fallen sick.

The bill is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Kendra Brooks, Helen Gym (At-Large), and Bobby Henon (6th District).

The Public Health Emergency Leave Bill would:

  1. Cover all workers, including healthcare providers, emergency workers, caregivers, gig economy workers, and undocumented workers.

  2. Provide 14 days of paid sick time.

  3. Provide full pay for workers who need to stay home to care for a sick loved one.

  4. Allow workers immediate access to the full amount of paid sick time.

“When sick workers are able to stay home, everyone is kept safe,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks. “I am proud to introduce this legislation on International Workers’ Day and join a long list of hard-fought battles for workers’ rights. I see this bill as the first step toward an Essential Workers’ Bill of Rights, which is sorely needed right now. It is time that we showed gratitude to our essential workers with actions, not just words.”

“This pandemic has shown the urgency of establishing clear protections for all the workers who keep our communities running during a global pandemic,” said Councilmember Helen Gym. “Paid leave was designed to relieve workers from the impossible choice between caring for their health and earning a basic income. Addressing this health crisis in a responsible way means protecting the health of workers without depriving them of the ability to support themselves and their families.”

“An unprecedented pandemic such as this was unexpected and exposed issues surrounding workers’ rights that allowed us to delve deeper into finding solutions to some of those problems,” said Councilmember Bobby Henon. “Emergency sick leave is a necessity at a time like this and in general during disasters. I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation introduced by Councilmember Brooks which will support our essential workers and those on the front line of this pandemic and future emergencies”

“Those of us on the frontlines of COVID-19 must have paid sick leave,” said Terry Thomas, a Philadelphia Certified Nursing Assistant and member of SEIU Healthcare – PA. “If we are not able to stay home when we’re ill, we can never stem the spread and keep our residents and families safe – more people will die, period. No one should ever have to choose between getting a paycheck or going to work sick.”

“I have pre-existing health conditions. I had to take a leave of absence because I work on an ICU floor,” said Tammi Richburg, a security officer in Philadelphia and member of SEIU 32BJ. “Currently, my son is battling COVID-19 and I’ve buried five loved ones who died from the virus. My union sisters and brothers are on the frontlines facing the reality that they can get this virus. If they do, they only have vacation and personal days to use. Workers need paid sick days.”

“I was sick with COVID-19 in March. I have three children and a wife at home who count on me,” said Ali Razak, an Uber driver since 2014 and member of Philadelphia Drivers’ Union. “If the city had ensured that I was paid for the time I was out sick from this pandemic, I would not have hundreds of dollars of overdraft and late fees. I would not have so much fear for how I will ever recover from this financially, and I could focus only on keeping myself and my family safe and healthy.”

“As grocery store workers, working during this pandemic is daunting,” said Sirianna Arathi, an organizer with One Pennsylvania. “We did not sign up to walk into the line of fire. Knowing that our health is at risk is scary enough but knowing that the health of our loved ones that we interact with or live with is another terrifying reality. Having paid sick leave to care for a loved one who may have fallen ill from this virus is vital.”

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