Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is reportedly blocking mandatory sick leave provisions for workers who fall ill with COVID-19.
As Congress negotiates an end-of-year pandemic aid bill, McConnell is pushing to let businesses and governments deny sick leave by blocking an extension of the program for people who get COVID that expires in two weeks, BuzzFeed News reported, citing multiple Hill sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Congress in March passed a law mandating that workers are able to draw two weeks of paid sick leave if they contract COVID, two weeks of paid sick leave to care for a quarantining relative, and up to 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed for COVID-related reasons.
As noted by BuzzFeed, however, “those provisions are set to expire at the end of the year.”
Democrats initially sought to broaden the scope of the program and extend it. Those goals were lowered to merely extending the program for several more months due to Republican opposition, according to one Senate aide. Now Republicans, led by McConnell, are opposing an expansion of the program altogether.
According to a Health Affairs study, paid sick leave lowered the spread of COVID and projected an extension of four to six months would cost $8 billion to $13 billion. That is a small fraction of the overall COVID bill, which is expected to come in around $900 billion.
“There is absolutely no reason, and no excuse, for failing to extend the lifesaving and bipartisan paid leave policy that is already on the books. Anything less would make absolutely no sense and be a catastrophe for millions of workers who shouldn’t have to choose between their health or their paycheck,” said Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Committee.
Mitch McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for comment.