The current global health crisis is making clear to everyone what families and advocates have long known: We all need the ability to give and get critical care without risking our ability to pay the bills. Together, we passed the country’s most inclusive paid family and medical leave law in 2019, but that program won’t be available for workers until 2023. Here’s what we’re doing in the meantime to make sure no one has to choose between their paycheck or their health.
OUR IMMEDIATE FIGHT
Oregon’s Paid Sick Time law doesn’t provide enough time to meet the recommended two weeks of self-quarantine for those exposed to COVID-19. And because of exemptions for many small employers, too many folks are actually excluded from the “paid” part of paid sick time, which makes the benefit essentially unavailable to them. Plus, the recently passed temporary federal emergency sick time* doesn’t cover many of the workers who need paid leave the most—like people who work in hospitals and nursing homes, or people who work at companies with more than 500 employees, like large grocery stores.
This August, we’re asking the Oregon Legislature to meet the needs of those left out of the federal law: By providing 2 weeks of paid sick time, these essential workers will be able to care for themselves and their families without putting themselves at risk. We’re also asking the Legislature to create a permanent paid sick time program available to everyone working in Oregon, anytime a public health emergency is declared. This permanent Public Health Emergency Paid Leave would be available in addition to any other paid leave that folks have access to and would go into effect January 1, 2021, after the federal program expires.
OUR LONG-TERM FIGHT
The global health crisis has proven that our communities rely on strong public infrastructure, whether it’s safety net programs or public education. Oregon’s new paid family and medical insurance program is part of that infrastructure, but it won’t be operational and administering benefits until 2023. We’re committed to making sure that the build-out of the program reflects the inclusive policy we fought hard to win.
For the next year, we will continue advocating for the needs of Oregonians, including the new sick time for public health emergencies. We will also work to implement a strong paid family and medical leave insurance program and work with lawmakers and other agency officials to make sure there are no delays in the creation and operation of this critical program. In the meantime, Oregonians need access to additional sick time in the face of a global health pandemic.
*Families First Coronavirus Response Act