Trump throws support behind paid sick leave

By Niv Elis
The Hill
President Trump on Tuesday threw his support behind a paid sick or family leave program, a major Democratic priority, as part of a stimulus package to counter the effects of coronavirus, according to several GOP senators.
“He made it very obvious he really supports those types of measures,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) following a lunch during which Trump pitched his proposals for a stimulus to GOP senators.
Republicans, who have traditionally balked at the policy, said they were open to it, though Trump did not present specifics of the plan, such as whether it would include a mandate, have an expiration date or require government funding.
“We will listen. We all recognize this is an extraordinary situation and we may need to take extraordinary measures, and President Trump’s providing that leadership,” Johnson said.
Democrats, who have pushed paid sick and family leave policies for years, put the issue at the top of their objectives list for a coronavirus stimulus.
“Workers impacted by quarantine orders or responsible for caring for children impacted by school closures must receive paid sick leave to alleviate the devastating consequences of lost wages,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter on the issue Monday.
One Republican senator floated extending a pilot program from the 2017 GOP tax cut that provided employers a tax credit for providing paid leave. Others said they needed more details.
“The way I heard it was aimed at small businesses only,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), saying such a focus could make the policy palatable.
“I like the idea, but I don’t like it as a mandate, and, again, if it was aimed only at smaller businesses, I’d consider it,” he added.
Paid leave advocates say the policy is crucial for both containing the spread of the virus and providing a safety net for affected workers.
“Without paid time to care for themselves or a loved one, many people will go to work while contagious with COVID-19. This is a recipe for disaster for all of us,” the Paid Leave for All campaign wrote in a Tuesday statement.
It wouldn’t be the first time some sort of paid leave policy would be included in a compromise bill between Democrats and Republicans.
Trump agreed to expand paid family leave for 2 million federal workers to clinch a deal on the National Defense Authorization Act last year and included in his first budget a proposal championed by his daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump to pilot a paid family leave program.
Democrats may seize the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a permanent program. “We don’t want people to have to choose between a paycheck and preventing the spread of the disease,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, said Tuesday morning.
“We’ve been talking about paid sick leave for years, and it’s really unfortunate that it takes a crisis like this to finally get the attention of the White House,” he added.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he was awaiting details on pay-fors and the overall size of the package, which could potentially include a temporary or permanent payroll tax cut, funding for coronavirus testing and treatments, low-interest loans to small businesses, and support for affected
industries such as cruise lines.
Shelby said he pushed the idea of an infrastructure plan as well.

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