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Front-Line Workers Most Affected by Lack of Federal Paid-Leave Policy

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Tuesday, September 1, 2020   

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- New data shows more than 800,000 workers in Arkansas were left out of paid leave by gaps in emergency COVID relief legislation.

Jessica Mason, senior policy analyst at the National Partnership for Women and Families, said many of these workers are women with children at home, who can't afford to lose their jobs if they get sick.

"We're talking about 300,000 people, about two-thirds of them women, who are working in front-line industries like grocery and retail, health care and child care, which are essential for protecting our health and keeping our economy going," Mason said.

Organizations representing hundreds of thousands of small-business owners across the country recently signed a letter urging Congress to guarantee paid family and medical leave for all small businesses and their employees during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amanda Ballantyne, executive director of the group Main Street Alliance, said amid the coronavirus recession, small businesses owners don't have the revenue to cover the extra costs of employees who aren't able to work due to family or medical issues, but at the same time are trying to maintain safe workplaces and public spaces.

"In states that have paid family and medical leave, businesses are doing a little bit better, because there is that safety net," Ballantyne said. "Employees are more likely to report exposures because they know they are going to be able to actually have the resources to then pay their bills if they have to stay home from work for an extended period of time."

Ballantyne said the pandemic is a rallying call for the nation to establish permanent structures to provide all working people with the resources they need when they need it.

"We also have, for many years, advocated for a piece of legislation called the Family Act, which would create a national, permanent, social insurance-based paid family- and medical-leave program that would cover all workers," she said.

A poll released earlier this year by the advocacy group Paid Leave for All Action found widespread support for paid sick leave among voters in battleground states who said they would be more likely to favor a candidate if that person supported paid sick leave and the other candidate did not.



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In the United States, home-care workers, mostly women and people of color, earn on average only $12 an hour. (Adobe Stock)

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