Millions of workers could lose access to paid sick and family leave if Congress does not pass another coronavirus relief package by the end of the year, Politico reported on Sunday.
Up to 87 million workers could be stripped of the benefit which lawmakers approved earlier this year, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. A lapse in the measure could increase the hardship many workers already face in the winter as new virus cases blanket the US.
The Families First Act that Congress passed in March contained a provision mandating employers provide their employees seeking medical care or quarantining with two weeks of sick pay. It also included 12 weeks of medical and family leave at two-thirds of their current pay.
“Letting this policy expire would put millions of workers at risk of having to make the impossible choice between their health and their paycheck, and undermine our recovery efforts,” Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told Politico.
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The benefit is set to end along with a slew of other federal protections including an eviction moratorium, a deferral on student loan payments, and jobless aid for almost 12 million unemployed Americans. Those expiring federal provisions could magnify the hardship many Americans face this winter amid a surge of virus cases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, warned on Sunday of another spike of infections after millions of Americans traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We may see a surge upon a surge,” Fauci told ABC News. “We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s just the reality.”
Congress has not approved another coronavirus relief package since the spring, and many economists are pressing lawmakers to pass another one and contain the economic damage from the pandemic.
They say it threatens to slow down or even reverse the tepid recovery. Only half of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April have been regained so far.
Unemployment claims ticked up for the second week in a row, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Over 20 million Americans are still receiving some form of unemployment benefits nearly nine months into the pandemic.