By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – California workers could receive up to two weeks of paid sick leave if they are infected with COVID-19 under a new deal struck Tuesday between California lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Gov. Newsom, alongside Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, announced a new agreement on a framework for supplemental COVID-19 sick leave on Tuesday that would last through September 30, 2022, and apply to businesses with 26 or more employees.
The framework would provide 40 hours of paid sick leave for workers in the public and private sector and an additional 40 hours for workers who test positive for COVID-19. Additionally, part-time workers would be eligible for sick leave equal to the amount of time they typically work and double that amount if they test positive for COVID-19, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“By extending sick leave to frontline workers with COVID and providing support for California businesses, we can help protect the health of our workforce, while also ensuring that businesses and our economy are able to thrive,” the lawmakers and Newsom said in a joint statement Tuesday. “We will continue to work to address additional needs of small businesses through the budget – they are the backbone of our communities and continue to be impacted by COVID-19.”
The framework comes as the state is grappling with a rise in COVID-19 cases tied to the omicron variant, causing widespread staffing shortages among health care workers, teachers and professionals in other sectors. It’s similar to a 2021 law that provided 80 hours of supplemental paid leave for workers infected by the virus, which expired in September of last year.
With the recent surge in cases across the state, labor union leaders and activists have called on state leaders in recent weeks to reinstate paid sick leave for workers. The SEIU California, which represents more than 700,000 healthcare workers, janitors, school employees, and county and state employees, began petitioning leaders to renew the emergency protection for workers infected by the virus.
“Make no mistake: today’s agreement happened because workers who are on the frontlines of the pandemic demanded safety for ourselves, our families and our communities,” Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We spoke up about the impossible choices we faced without enough sick time to recover from COVID-19 without our kids going hungry.
“We know we can’t wait for employers to keep us safe – we have to advocate for ourselves, and Governor Newsom and legislators listened.”
In addition to paid sick leave for employees, the framework includes additional grant funding for businesses hit hard by the pandemic, tax relief for businesses who received federal relief grants and additional funds to support the state’s testing capacity, according to a news release from the governor’s office.