U.S. Senate should strengthen House COVID-19 bill
Posted March 18, 2020 in Press Releases
Limited measure could provide immediate relief, but Senate may hollow it out
House Resolution 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, will provide some relief to workers, families and states - if it makes it intact through the Senate. Senior Project Director Wendy Patton released the following statement calling on Ohio Senators Rob Portman (R-Terrace Park) and Sherrod Brown (D-Cleveland) to pass the bill, and take steps to improve it:
“The Coronavirus Response Act is a good start on the massive federal aid the nation’s states and communities will need to cope with the pandemic. It boosts the federal share of Medicaid costs, assures everyone can get tested free of charge and increases funding for food aid.
“The heart of the bill gives paid sick days and family leave for some workers without such benefits. In Ohio as many as 1.3 million workers, often in retail, child care, food service and other low-wage sectors, work for employers that don’t offer paid sick time. Too often they cannot afford to take a day off, even though going to work sick threatens them, their colleagues and the customers they serve.
“The Coronavirus Response Act would partially address this problem and help control the spread of the virus by mandating paid sick days for some workers. The cost of the sick pay would be reimbursed by a tax credit, and small firms can ask for an exemption. More is needed; the bill leaves out millions of workers at the largest firms and at small firms that are exempted.
“Today, an amendment made by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) endangers the heart of the bill. The “Johnson Amendment” would eliminate the guarantee of paid sick and family leave as well as reimbursement to employers for providing these key protections.
“If the Coronavirus relief plan makes it through the Senate intact, it will help in the hard months ahead. Yet it is far from enough to get us through. Even as the Senate debates this package, a much larger relief package is in the works.
“These are hard times, and we are only as strong as our most vulnerable neighbor. The Coronavirus Relief Act is just a start, but as long as it is not gutted by the Johnson Amendment, it will provide protection and aid for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans.”