Extra paid sick time for Massachusetts workers should be a key part of plans to reopen the state's economy, members of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition said in a letter Thursday to Gov. Charlie Baker.
Raise Up says the 40 hours of annual paid sick time guaranteed under a 2014 law "isn't enough to meet the scale and impact" of the COVID-19 crisis.
The coalition pitched Baker on legislation filed by Rep. Paul Donato and Sen. Jason Lewis that would provide 10 additional work days, or 80 hours, of job-protected, paid sick time for immediate use during the COVID-19 pandemic, for workers who were not covered under the extra sick time provisions of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
"Massachusetts will not be able to safely reopen our economy if tens of thousands of workers feel the need to go to work even when they might be sick," the letter said. "To protect the public health of our communities, we need to guarantee that all Massachusetts workers have access to additional paid sick time during this crisis."
While their proposal has not surfaced for floor votes, Raise Up says that the legislation it backs has 81 sponsors in the House and 23 in the Senate, representing a majority of each branch. If passed, the proposals would need Baker's buy-in to become law.
Under the bills, workers taking the emergency sick time would be paid by their employers at their regular rate, up to $850 a week. The employers would be reimbursed by the state. The sick time would be available for workers diagnosed with COVID-19, experiencing symptoms and waiting for a diagnosis, quarantining, or who reasonably believe their health is at risk, and to care for family members in any of those categories.
Public officials have repeatedly urged workers to stay home if sick, but workers and families are also under stress due to skyrocketing unemployment.