Rep. Connolly's testimony in support of Emergency Paid Sick Time

The Honorable Stephen Hay
House Vice Chair, Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development

The Honorable Patricia Jehlen
Senate Chair, Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development

May 29, 2020 — Via Email to Committee Staff

Dear Vice-Chair Hay and Chair Jehlen:

I write expressing strong support for the Emergency Paid Sick Time legislation filed by Rep. Paul Donato and Sen. Jason Lewis (H4700 / S2701). COVID-19 is an extremely contagious virus. As the Administration begins its four-phased approach to reopening, it is vitally important for our public health and safety that workers who feel sick or may have been exposed to COVID-19 are able to stay home and avoid exposing others to the virus, without losing the pay they need to make ends meet. During several of his recent addresses, Governor Baker has emphasized the need for employees who feel sick to stay at home. This legislation would make that goal a reality by guaranteeing all workers at least 10 additional workdays (80 hours) of job-protected paid sick time for immediate use.

On March 18th, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law to provide paid sick time for many workers. Unfortunately, it also left millions of workers uncovered, including those at companies with more than 500 employees, workers of our local small businesses, and many employees of health care and residential facilities.

This Emergency Paid Sick Time legislation would provide employees not covered by the FFCRA with ten additional work-days (80 hours) of job-protected paid sick time for immediate use during the COVID-19 outbreak. Workers taking Emergency Paid Sick Time to care for themselves or a family member would be paid by their employers at their regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $850 per week. Importantly, employers would not have to take on the costs of providing Emergency Paid Sick Time, because they would be fully reimbursed by the Commonwealth.

In 2014, voters passed Massachusetts’ Earned Sick Time law, but the 40 hours of sick time it provides yearly is not enough to meet the scale of this public health crisis. In 2018, we passed one of the most comprehensive Paid Family and Medical Leave plans in the nation, but its benefits do not become available until next year.

Universal access to paid sick time is essential for frontline workers who are putting their health at risk by working right now, and for all workers as businesses begin to reopen over the coming weeks. Frontline workers are our first line of defense against COVID-19, but they are feeling the greatest economic impact of the outbreak. Healthcare and long-term care workers, janitorial workers, food service workers, childcare workers, municipal workers, gig workers, and others on the front lines are critical to supporting our communities during the outbreak. Women, people of color, and immigrants are all overrepresented in front-line occupations and industries. This bill is urgently needed to maintain public health, slow the spread of the virus, and prevent our healthcare system and our testing and tracing programs from becoming overwhelmed.

Additionally, this legislation should be tailored to account for the possibility that we may have another outbreak of COVID-19 after the current state of emergency ends. Public Health officials have raised the very real possibility that we may have another spike in the Fall. This legislation should provide relief not just in the current state of emergency, but also in future ones and for a period of time after the current one ends.

In summary, the Emergency Paid Sick Time legislation would ensure that all workers can take paid sick time during this unprecedented public health crisis and make sure that employers are not the ones who are bearing the costs. Workers should not have to choose between getting paid and protecting the health of our communities. We respectfully ask that this legislation quickly be voted favorably out of the committee. Thank you for your consideration.

Yours in service,

Rep. Mike Connolly
26th Middlesex District