Maloney: COVID Pandemic Highlights Need for Paid Leave for All

September 26, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC – At the September 23rd Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hybrid hearing titled “Recognizing and Building On The Success Of Pandemic Relief Programs,” Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, highlighted the positive impact that providing paid family leave had on American families during the COVID-19 crisis, the need to extend this policy, and the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on low-income and essential workers and communities of color.

During the hearing, Congresswoman Maloney stated, “The pandemic has underscored the importance of allowing workers in the United States to take time off from work if they get sick or need to take care of a loved one. Early in this pandemic, the Congress required many large employers to provide paid sick leave to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and support workers who got sick. In the American Rescue Plan, Congress extended tax credits to small and mid-size businesses that gave workers paid sick leave.”

Congresswoman Maloney then asked Mr. Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Co-Executive Director, Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality, “In your opinion, have the paid sick leave provisions in the American Rescue Plan slowed the spread of the coronavirus?”

Mr. Dutta-Gupta replied, “That’s a terrific question. There is in fact evidence that the provisions of the emergency relief measures slowed the spread of the coronavirus. The FFCRA, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was studied by researchers who found that there were around 400 fewer confirmed cases per state per day in states that gained access to paid sick leave through the FFCRA. That would translate into roughly one prevented case per day per 1,300 workers who had newly gained the option to take up [to] just two weeks of paid sick leave. I will note that a lot of workers, a large share of workers, did not have access to any sort of leave, and still don’t with policies being not mandatory for the vast majority of employers and with a lot of carve outs for some of those workers so I do hope that we learn from this that paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave even, are genuine investments in public health and in our economy, but that we build upon what we’ve done with a more robust, comprehensive and universal approach.”

Congresswoman Maloney then asked, “How has expanding paid leave in this pandemic improved our economy?”

Mr. Dutta-Gupta responded, “So, just think about somebody who cannot go without a day or week’s pay and maybe they feel unwell. And this is not that uncommon, even at the end of the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, some 40 percent of families would have struggled to meet a $1,000 emergency. So, the truth is that a lot of American workers are living quite precariously even after a decade-long economic expansion. So, lots of workers show up for work when it would be good for all of us if we could contain the spread of contagious diseases, including COVID-19, and they also fear for losing their jobs. Maybe they can’t afford a few days off, maybe they can afford a few days off, but that doesn’t mean that they will have their job back at the end of that time. So, offering protections for workers to be able to prioritize their own health, the health of their loved ones as well, including potentially sick kids and others they care for, can absolutely allow people to focus more on productive economic activity and avoid some of those substantial health costs that we have been facing in this country.”

Congresswoman Maloney then pointed to the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic, highlighting that “low-income and essential workers, communities of color, and vulnerable people have disproportionately been impacted by both the health and economic harms from the pandemic. Yet, low wage workers are less likely to have paid sick leave and family leave.”

She then turned to Rev. Starsky Wilson, President at the Children's Defense Fund, asking, “Dr. Wilson, what impact can a parent’s lack of paid leave have on their children’s well-being?”

Rev. Wilson answered, “Clearly some of the things that we know is that most parents and caregivers who are in low-income families don’t have paid leave to care for their children or older adults at all, and never have had access, and of course this disproportionately impacts black and brown parents. We also know that millions of women are pushed out of the labor force because they didn’t have paid leave for childcare. And more importantly this is about caring for a child in their earliest stages of life, to bond with the child, to care for them. And every person in the U.S. should have access to that regardless of race, zip code, or income. So, we know the early bonds parents developed with their babies are critical to future learning, to building a positive, loving relationship with a child, and to helping their child develop a cognitive, social, and emotional development that helps them reach their full potential. So paid family leave, or parental leave, can also reduce infant mortality by as much as 10 percent according to a study of 141 countries with paid leave policies. So, paid parental leave can reduce the share of low-birth-weight babies by over 10 percent, decrease in the likelihood of early term birth by nearly 7 percent, with particularly large impact on children and the well-being of children and black mothers. So, we know that this is something that helps children to be well, helps them to develop over time, and removing that access will have deleterious effect on the future children in America, particularly black and brown children.”


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