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Paid Sick Leave Measure Would Cover Many Fewer People

Woman seated
Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William) proposed the state mandate paid sick leave for essential workers, but her bill was pared back by Senate lawmakers on Monday. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

Two Senate committees approved a bill on Monday that would guarantee home health care workers up to a week of earned paid sick leave. That’s only a fraction of the workers that an earlier version of the proposal introduced would have covered.

If it passes the full Senate, the bill would allow workers that provide medical and assistive services in patients’ homes to earn paid sick leave by working a certain number of hours. The leave can be used for sick days and to look after family members that need care.

Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William), who is also running for lieutenant governor this year, brought the legislation. She proposed a more extensive version of the measure in the 2020 special session. That passed the House, but was dropped by Senate Commerce and Labor outright.

The bill that passed the House this year originally extended paid sick leave to eleven categories of essential workers, including employees of grocery stores, emergency responders, educators and more. The House added an exception for small businesses before sending it to the Senate.

Kim Bobo is director of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and a long-time workers rights advocate. She thought this version, tailored to help workers most vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic, would be narrow enough to get approval.

“But the Senate Commerce and Labor committee was not willing to go that far,” Bobo said.

She says the Senate substitute is a start, and is glad that paid sick days will be in Virginia law for home health care providers. But she is looking to broaden it next year.

“This is a modest first step,” Bobo said. “We believe that all workers should have paid sick days in Virginia.”

Bobo isn’t sure exactly how many workers could have been covered in the original language, but says it was in the hundreds of thousands. The Senate version covers about 30,000 workers.

The bill still has to be approved by the full Senate before eventually heading to the governor’s desk for a signature.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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