Mitch McConnell seeks to end coronavirus paid sick leave program

Key Republicans dismiss the need to extend the program once it expires at the end of December

The paid sick leave benefits program for workers who are affected by COVID-19 expires at the end of December, and as Congress works on a stimulus package that could provide desperately-needed relief to workers, their families, and small businesses, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to block the extension of those emergency benefits.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed by Congress back in March, and the bill guaranteed paid sick leave for two weeks if a worker fell ill from COVID-19, or two weeks pay to care for family members who were sick. Additionally, the bill offered up to 10 weeks of paid family leave to parents affected by COVID-related school or day care closures.

But the benefits didn’t apply to everyone. According to Buzzfeed News, any company with over 500 employees is not required to provide paid sick leave to employees, and some small businesses found loopholes to get around the requirements, leaving millions of American workers without protection.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks towards the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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Along with McConnell, Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Health Committee, also opposes an extension of the program.

“Paid sick leave is a good idea. We do it in my office, the federal government now does it, and many businesses do it. Unfortunately, current paid leave proposals impose billions of dollars in an unfunded mandate on state and local governments,” Alexander said in a statement to Buzzfeed News. “If the federal government wants to require paid leave, the federal government should pay for it.”

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Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Committee from Washington state, said 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.”

Congressional negotiations are expected to continue through the weekend.

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