The one good thing about COVID-19

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A sick day? Remote work? That’s not so easy if your job is at a restaurant, a day care center or even in a hospital. The scary and tragic nature of COVID-19 is bringing the need for paid leave to the forefront of conversation in a real and urgent way. A broad, urgent bill has been passed in Congress, Senate, and signed by President Donald Trump. This bill would provide emergency paid sick days and paid leave to a huge portion of low-income workers.  Only 17 existing state and local laws already have provisions for paid leave — North Carolina is NOT one of those states.

This bill would ensure free testing for anyone who needs it, and aggressively boost funding for states’ Medicaid, unemployment insurance,  food assistance, and aging and disability assistance programs.

Key elements of the emergency bill include:

  • Free COVID-19 testing for everyone who needs a test, regardless of health coverage;
  • Ten days of immediately available paid sick leave for COVID-19 related illness, caregiving or quarantine;
  • Twelve weeks of emergency paid leave for COVID-19 related illness, caregiving or quarantine;
  • Increased funding for SNAP, WIC and emergency food assistance programs, as well as flexibility for states to ensure access to food;
  • Increased support for aging and disability programs, including home food delivery programs;
  • Increased funding for state unemployment insurance programs, as well as reduced barriers to access for affected people;
  • Increased support for state Medicaid programs, including enhanced aid to states to cover costs.

When the CDC says, “Stay home so that you don’t spread the disease,” many who won’t get paid have not choice. COVID-19 hit at a time with more than 70 percent of low wage workers don’t have a single paid sick day. COVID-19 reminds us why the conversation about #paidsickdays are important for short-term and long term solutions. This bi-partisan support is great for the time being. We’re in this together and America will only be as healthy as our most vulnerable and least cared-for residents.

Last Fall Women AdvaNCe focused on the issue of Paid Leave in North Carolina with stories written by members of our writer’s collective and professional journalists. You can read those stories on our website

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