WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) today urged the Department of Labor (DOL) to reconsider its decision to strip emergency paid sick and family leave from millions of workers, a benefit established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the second Coronavirus aid package passed in mid-March.
Last week, the DOL issued guidance that broadly expanded the categories of workers exempt from such emergency leave benefits, in effect stripping the congressionally-mandated protections of the bill from a wide swath of Americans. The guidance broadly interpreted the definition of “health care provider” and “emergency responder” to include practically any worker in the healthcare supply chain, including workers that do not directly provide healthcare services.
“As a result, housekeepers, administrative staff, pharmacists, caregivers, and millions of other workers could be forced to work without the protections Congress intended—and did, in fact, provide to them under the law,” Booker and Warren wrote in their letter to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia.
“We are confused and dismayed that DOL has taken additional steps to potentially strip the newly enacted paid family and sick leave protections from millions of health care workers through an overly broad interpretation of the exclusion included in the statute,” the lawmakers added. “The decision by DOL to attempt to expand exemptions to FFCRA not only undermines clear congressional intent, but is also a disservice to the millions of healthcare workers risking their own health to combat this pandemic.”
Full text of the letter is available here.
Booker has made it a priority to ensure that as many American workers and consumers are supported during this unprecedented pandemic. He was one of the first lawmakers to propose direct cash payments to millions of Americans that suddenly found themselves financially insecure due to COVID-19 and he was instrumental in eliminating the “waiting week” requirement for unemployment benefits, to ensure laid-off workers received assistance more quickly. He also advocated for common-sense measures such as banning bank overdraft fees during the public health emergency and banning companies receiving federal assistance from engaging in stock buybacks for the length of the federal loan. He also has sounded the alarm repeatedly about the dire shortage of personal protective gear for front-line healthcare workers and has urged President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to address the shortage.