Paid Leave, Who Knew?

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice Labor Organizing
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Little Rock      I thought I was paying pretty close attention, but this one slipped right by me.  Who knew that part of the giant stimulus package included a first-of-its-kind paid leave provision?  It must be me, but why do I have the sneaky suspicion that maybe I missed the reports about paid leave, because they were deliberately being kept on the down-low, confusing, and obscure?

We’ll come back to that, but in the meantime, here’s the skinny, according to a New York Times’ report:

Eligible workers can receive two weeks off at full pay, up to $511 a day, for sick leave, and 12 weeks at two-thirds pay, up to $200 a day, if their children’s schools or child care are closed.

Wow!  That’s not bad at all!  Three months paid leave to take care of the kids with everything closed down at up to $1000 a week.  Why don’t we all know about this program.

Of course, you have to be eligible and that takes some crawling through the eye of a needle.  You can’t be working for a company with more than 500 workers, and that knocks off about half of the US workforce, because their employers are too big.  You also can’t be working for a company with less than 50 workers, and that knocks off another big group of workers, because their employers are too small.  You have to find yourself in the sweet spot working for a medium-sized employer, if you have one in order to be eligible.  Come to think of it, I know a lot of workers, including many our union represents who fall perfectly in that category.

As I said before, you also have to know the program exists in order to ask your boss to let you take advantage of it, and this new and temporary benefit is a well-kept secret.  The Department of Labor is not publicizing it.  Many companies are skeptical about it, because it requires that they make a frontend payment to the worker and get reimbursed by the government later. Mostly though, I think a lot of workers and bosses are walking in my shoes, and just didn’t realize the benefit was available.  Once again the Times reports that a survey by the Bipartisan Policy Center of over 500 business leaders whose operations were qualified,

“…showed a split: 44 percent thought it was helpful, and 37 percent thought it was harmful. A large share, 70 percent, said the need to provide paid leave contributed to their decision to lay off or furlough workers. Forty percent said no employees had taken the leave, and 20 percent said only a few had….”

As opposed to some of the other programs where the line is long and the money seems to run out before you know it, this program was estimated to cost over $100 billion.  Right now, hiding in the open, with plenty of money, few customers, and short lines, this is a program where workers need to start knocking on their bosses’ doors.  Schools are closed.  Day care isn’t open.  Workers are being called back to work who are single parents with young children or both parents working with no way to handle young children.  This paid leave is for you, come on, go for it!