Statement on Historic but Insufficient Paid Sick Leave in Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Statement from Vicki Shabo, Senior Fellow, Paid Leave Policy and Strategy, New America
Press Release
March 18, 2020

Last week, Congress expressed an intent to enact meaningful emergency paid sick days and paid family and medical leave provisions as part of legislation to address the COVID-19 crisis. The legislation proposed by House Democrats not even a week ago did just that. The negotiated bill passed by the House on a solid bipartisan vote early Saturday morning was an important first step, though it included a significant carve out of businesses with 500 employees or more, leaving behind about half of America’s private sector workforce. And after further negotiations, the bill was dramatically weakened even more through so-called technical corrections on Monday evening to eliminate all extended paid family and medical leave for personal illness and family care, leaving intact only the extended leave provisions to replace wages for parents facing extended children’s school or child care closures. The final bill also included new exemptions for smaller businesses and for health providers and emergency responders, and required paid sick time and extended school closure leave to be available only when people can neither go into work or telework.

Today, the Senate could have corrected these omissions and limitations and could have made it easier for businesses to provide paid leave during this crisis, but Senate Republicans rejected an amendment from Sens. Murray and Gillibrand to provide comprehensive emergency paid family and medical leave and paid sick days during the COVID-19 crisis to every working person in America. Instead, the Senate voted to maintain only a limited emergency leave provision.

The following statement can be attributed to Vicki Shabo, Senior Fellow for Paid Leave Policy and Strategy for the Better Life Lab at New America:

“The Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s inclusion of paid sick days for about half of America’s workers and extended paid leave for some parents dealing with school closures is historic, but it falls far short of what this moment demands and what working people and families need. The final bill passed in weakened, amended form Monday night by the U.S. House of Representatives and today by the U.S. Senate—which the president is expected to sign—failed to create universal protections.

"The carve-outs in this bill show the power of the organized business lobby and lay bare the disingenuous statements of the President, who pledged earlier this week to require the large businesses carved out of the package to provide emergency paid sick and family leave. Congress must act in its third coronavirus emergency package to create certainty for workers and protect public health by establishing universal access to paid sick time and extended paid family and medical leave for all workers for the duration of this crisis.”

For more information on the details or significance of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, please contact Vicki Shabo,