Trump Administration is scaling back paid leave in Coronavirus Relief Law

Apr 4, 2020 2:15 AM ET

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has significantly reduced the paid vacation requirements for employers created by a new coronavirus discharge law, effectively freeing many small businesses from a move that infuriated legislators wishing to expand Had fought advantage.

In the guidelines released on Wednesday, the Department of Labor said that employers in companies with fewer than 50 employees had a lot of leeway to offer the 12 weeks paid vacation that the law required for workers whose children were home from school, or the coronavirus pandemic because of childcare. The legislation, which provides for two weeks of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family vacation and reimburses employers for tax credits, already excludes workers in companies with more than 500 employees.

Overall, more than 75 percent of American employees are employed by companies that are eligible for exemptions from the law.

The law passed in March states that companies with fewer than 50 employees could be exempted from vacation leave if that would affect the functioning of the company and would be left to the Ministry of Labor to specify what that means. The department released its guidelines on Wednesday, which include a comprehensive definition that allows small businesses not to grant the vacation. According to the guidelines, small businesses cannot be exempted from health insurance for an employee’s own illness.

However, companies with fewer than 50 employees could refuse to provide paid leave for childcare if this would “result in the small company ceasing to operate” if the absence of workers would pose a “significant risk” to the company or not enough workers who are “capable, willing and qualified” to work for the person looking for vacation.

Health care providers and first aiders as well as certain federal government employees can also be refused paid leave.

Democrats were also alarmed that the new guidelines added requirements that were not included in the original law, including the fact that employers could ask workers to certify the need for vacation and that employers need work for workers so that workers can do this qualify for vacation.

Senator Patty Murray of Washington and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, both Democrats who pushed for the expansion of paid vacation, urged Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to lift some guidelines on Wednesday. In a letter, they wrote to Mr. Scalia that the guidelines “violate Congress’ intentions” and “contradict simple language” of the legislation.

“Given Congress’s intention to respond to the unprecedented nature of this pandemic,” wrote the legislature, “the Department of Labor was responsible for providing workers with maximum flexibility during this crisis – without limiting their vacation to when employers consented To give.” ”

Mr Scalia said in a statement on Wednesday that the law “provides unprecedented paid vacation benefits to American workers affected by the virus while ensuring that companies are reimbursed.”

The Department of Labor guidelines are likely to become part of a broader series of disputes between Congress and the Trump administration over the implementation of new programs worth more than $ 2 trillion created in response to the coronavirus crisis and in three broad ones Laws that were hurriedly enacted were hastily laid down last month.

Extending paid vacation provisions was one of the most controversial issues as a legislator and government official A law was negotiated last month to strengthen the social security network and help families struggling to reach the virus. Significant changes to legislation after a midnight vote after the house passed reduced the scope of benefits, partly due to administrative concerns about the burden on small businesses.

The law was finally passed by the Senate and signed last month. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, advised the Republicans “still choke and vote for”.

Democrats have vowed to further expand paid vacation provisions in future legislation to support an economy that has been largely forced to slow the spread of the virus. Republicans continued to be reluctant to sign such provisions, and Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee welcomed the “greater flexibility” that small businesses have now been given in a press release on Thursday.

Liberal economists who support the paid vacation program warned that the restrictions would force many workers to make a difficult decision – between caring for their children and keeping their jobs – at a time of great fear and insecurity are.

They also raised concerns about the extensive exceptions to the program that the Ministry of Labor had drawn up for health workers.

“The exemption from healthcare providers and emergency services is jeopardizing our country’s ability to fight corona virus and making us all more vulnerable,” said Heather Boushey, president of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a think tank focused on inequality and growth . “Our healthcare workers are most vulnerable to exposure and can pass it on to other patients. These are the workers who need the most protection. “

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