As each day brings more news of how the coronavirus is damaging our health and our economy, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the 250,000 companies we represent, are again calling on Congress and the President to act quickly to mitigate both.
The Senate now has before it the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201)passed overwhelmingly by the House on Friday night. The bill is a good first step to respond to this crisis. The bill provides for free testing, immediate emergency sick days, earned sick days, longer paid leave, and expanded unemployment insurance, with limited targeted assistance to small business. These steps are a critical foundation for supporting community health and at least maintaining, if not increasing, business productivity.
Now it is time for the Senate to act and send this critical measure to the President to sign this week.
However, there are some significant gaps in this bill, a product of negotiations between Congress and the Administration, which some members of Congress have suggested will be followed with additional legislation. ASBC believes additional steps must address those gaps, including providing assistance for businesses, especially small businesses, whose bottom line has been ravaged by taking the appropriate steps to protect health and safety, as well as providing coverage for employees at companies with more than 500 employees or fewer than 50 employees who were exempted from provisions of H.R. 6201.
ASBC has long advocated for federal paid family leave, and this coronavirus crisis is a frightening demonstration of that need. When all employees have time to heal themselves, or time to care for sick family members, productivity increases, profits rise, our economy grows and our nation becomes stronger. To make this happen, workers need to have access to paid leave so they have support while dealing with personal or family health issues, and a job to come back to once the issues have been resolved.
Every health expert recommends that taking broad action quickly will help minimize the spread of this virus and other health threats and that can only benefit businesses, communities, and the economy as a whole. Yet, nationally, over 1 in 4 private sector employees lack access to earned sick days, and 60 percent of workers lack employer provided personal medical leave for a longer illness. But a recent study by ASBC and Panorama found a positive, or at worst neutral, impact on return on investment for businesses that offer paid leave.
It’s time for immediate action.Join ASBC in our call for theSenate to quickly pass, and the President to sign, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and then to expeditiously move to take the next steps to protect American businesses who are making significant economic sacrifices to protect our health and to reassure all American workers.
And, as always, please closely follow the advice of health professionals.
Thomas Oppel Executive Vice President American Sustainable Business Council