PORTER RANCH (CBSLA) – As cases of the Omicron variant surge, new pressure emerges to bring back two weeks of supplemental paid COVID sick leave.
“It’s important for just public safety. You don’t want to go to work and get your coworkers sick,” said Caridad Valle, who thinks California lawmakers need to reinstate the extra COVID sick time right away.READ MORE: Hundreds Of Local Students Pound The Pavement In Rose Bowl Half Marathon In Pasadena
Valle, who’s from San Fernando, works in retail, which means she risks constant exposure to COVID. She pointed out that without extra sick days, many workers feel they have no choice, but to go to work even if they are sick with COVID.
“My boyfriend has an autoimmune disease. My mom is disabled. So, It’s kind of important to make sure that we’re safe and not forced to go to work. I don’t have the luxury of just not going to work and not getting paid. Bills got to get paid,” she said.
Extra COVID sick time was added last March for state businesses with more than 25 employees, but those extra days expired at the end of September. Now, with California swimming in a massive, record-breaking multi-billion dollar budget surplus, many are demanding those extra benefits be reinstated.
“All of my sick time is exhausted until next August,” said Rhiannan Ramos who works at a San Bernardino County Stater Brothers.
Because of COVID, Ramos said she had to burn through her regular sick time. She was among a group who held a virtual rally Thursday urging state lawmakers to take action.READ MORE: Injured Hiker Rescued From Temescal Gateway Park
“It’s insane that all my sick time is gone just for a quarantine that was required. What if an employee doesn’t have any vacation days left or doesn’t have any sick pay?” Ramos said.
Some influential business groups, like the California Chamber of Commerce, are concerned about the extra sick days, because of the potential costs to small businesses and prior abuses of the policy. Democratic lawmakers who spoke to CBSLA are all in support of the extra COVID sick days, as is Governor Newsom, but there are few specifics.
“We’re working on it, announced yesterday wit legislative leaders. The Speaker Pro Tem has been great. We had direct conversations a few days ago on this topic, to pursue new sick leave legislation. So, it’s an early action top priority,” Newsom said earlier this week.
But whether and how much the state will pitch in to pay for the extra days is unclear.
“The human thing to do is to keep one another protected and safe because that’s the only way we’re going to get out of this,” Valle said.
The governor’s office told CBSLA that they hope to have the extra COVID sick days reinstated by the end of the month, on an emergency basis.MORE NEWS: Body Found On 101 Freeway