A senator blocked an emergency sick leave bill from moving forward amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the federal government shouldn’t have to foot the bill.
“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,” stated Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who blocked the bill in the Senate’s health committee. He said it’s a good idea for employers to give workers paid leave amid the outbreak.
The measure was introduced by several Democratic senators, who said that forced quarantines for people who might have been exposed to the virus could ruin people financially as they might not get paid. Meanwhile, not paying for sick leave provides a dangerous incentive for potentially infected employees to go to work.
“Our primary goal right now, for people in my home state and across the country, needs to be slowing the spread of the virus in areas where there are outbreaks, so areas where it hasn’t hit so hard yet have time to prepare. One of the best ways we can do this is by allowing workers who feel sick—or who need to stay home with a child whose school is closed—to do so without losing a paycheck or a job,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said on the Senate floor.
“That’s not a choice we should be asking anyone to make in the United States in the 21st century,” Murray added.
A similar bill was also sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in the House. The measure would guarantee workers 14 days of paid sick leave in the event of a public health emergency.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last week that a federal law shouldn’t be necessary for employers to stop the spread of the virus.
“Sometimes things don’t require government action, they require people to be decent human beings and do the right thing,” Rubio said in a statement.
It comes as Amazon on Wednesday announced it would provide up to two weeks of sick leave for people diagnosed or quarantined with the new coronavirus, which causes the disease called COVID-19.
“We will be offering all of these groups the ability to apply for grants approximately equal to up to two-weeks of pay if diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine by the government or Amazon,” the company said in a statement.
Walmart, Olive Garden, Apple, and Uber have made similar announcements.