Labor & Employment Law Daily House COVID-19 appropriations bill would expand relief for workers and their families
Wednesday, March 25, 2020

House COVID-19 appropriations bill would expand relief for workers and their families

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The bill would expand paid leave relief, OSHA protections, retirement security, and workforce training.

As the third phase of COVID-19 relief is stalled in the Senate, the House has in the meantime released its own legislation, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, H.R. 6379, which has been referred to the House Committees on Appropriations, the Budget, and Ways and Means. The huge bill, 1,403 pages long, could be seen as a Democratic wish list of statutory changes that would better serve constituents.

The House Democrats’ bill would bring more than $2.5 trillion to boldly address the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on families, businesses, and communities. The massive legislation would protect frontline health care workers and provide workers and families the direct, immediate, and comprehensive financial support that, according to Democrats, they need during this public health crisis.

Health care workers. The legislation includes relief aimed at protecting frontline health care workers who are confronting the coronavirus pandemic, including by directing OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) within seven days requiring that health care facilities and emergency responders implement protections for health care workers from COVID-19. These provisions would further require:

  • OSHA state plans to adopt an ETS within 14 days.
  • The ETS to cover public employees in health care settings in the 24 states where their workplaces are currently not covered by OSHA.
  • OSHA to issue a comprehensive Permanent Infectious Disease standard within two years.
  • OSHA to exercise discretion in enforcement under the ETS, if it determines that it is not feasible for an employer to comply with requirements for personal protective or other equipment due to equipment shortages, as long as the employer makes a good-faith effort to comply and implements alternative measures to protect employees.

Emergency paid sick leave. H.R. 6379 would in addition eliminate the exemptions for paid sick leave and family and medical leave in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to dramatically expand the share of U.S. workers who would be able to time off to care for themselves or their families. These provisions would:

  • Ensures that workers, no matter employer size or occupation, are eligible for two weeks of emergency paid sick leave and 10 weeks of paid family and medical leave.
  • Expand the uses for paid family and medical leave so workers can take time off to self-quarantine; care for a quarantined family member; care for a child whose school has closed or child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19; or care for a disabled or senior citizen family member whose place of care or direct care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.
  • Ensure that workers taking paid family and medical leave receive at least two-thirds of their typical pay (up to $200 per day) while on leave.
  • Ensure that workers taking paid sick leave receive full wage replacement (up to $511 per day) while on leave.

Butch Lewis Act. Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act would also protect retirement security for retirees facing pension cuts by incorporating the Butch Lewis Act, which would fully protect workers and retirees’ hard-earned pensions and prevent the multiemployer system from collapsing, saving taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

Workforce training. Further, H.R. 6379 would invest in workforce training programs to help workers recover from the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis by giving state and local workforce systems new funding and new flexibility to support workers and employers impacted by the COVID-19 national emergency.

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