By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – California could soon extend COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave through December and offer grants to certain nonprofits and businesses under a budget bill advanced by lawmakers on Monday.
The bill expands upon existing supplemental paid sick leave provisions passed in February that offer California workers up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave.
The law specified that workers were entitled to at least 40 hours of COVID-19 sick leave to complete a quarantine period, to take care of a family member who has been instructed to quarantine or is taking care of a child whose school or daycare has closed due to COVID-19. Under the law, workers could receive an additional 40 hours if the employee or a family member tested positive for COVID-19.
Those provisions, which were set to expire Sept. 30, would be expanded through Dec. 31 under the budget trailer bill. Lawmakers advanced the bill in the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee on Monday. Lawmakers didn’t discuss the estimated cost of the enhanced paid sick leave on employers.
Under the existing law, California employers can require employees to submit a second diagnostic test on the fifth day after the employee initially tested positive. This bill further allows the employer to require employees who test positive a second time to take another test after 24 hours, though employers must pay to provide both tests.
The bill specifies that an employer has “no obligation” to provide additional COVID-19 sick leave if employees refuse to submit proof of positive tests.
The original bill reinstating COVID-19 sick leave in February was signed after the state saw surging case rates throughout January. While the state is not currently amid a surge, supporters of expanding the paid sick leave provisions through the end of the year said Monday it would offer key pay protections for workers.
The bill also establishes a grant program for smaller businesses and nonprofits with between 26 to 49 employees to help offset some of the costs associated with the expanded sick leave.
Qualified businesses and nonprofits can request grants to cover the costs of supplemental paid leave, with grants capped at $50,000. To qualify, businesses must be currently operating and have been operational prior to June 1, 2021.
Lawmakers have until the end of the day Wednesday to get the bill out of the Legislature and sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.