A bill to ease the financial burden from the coronavirus has passed the House but may face opposition from senators concerned about its paid sick leave provisions.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act — which passed the House on a 363-40-1 vote on Saturday — had yet to be delivered to the Senate on Monday as lawmakers continued working with the White House on technical corrections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said senators “will need to carefully review” the proposal but he believes “the vast majority of senators in both parties will agree we should act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses.”
But how swiftly it will pass the Senate remained uncertain. “The 14 days of paid sick leave the legislation guarantees has spurred concerns from Republicans, who are worried the proposal could put too much pressure on small businesses,” Vox reported.
“We worry that the bill [sets] up a new and complicated system relying on businesses giving paid sick leave and then getting a refundable tax credit that won’t move quickly enough and could put pressure on those businesses to lay workers off,” Sen. Tom Cotton, Republican from Arkansas, said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged those concerns, saying on Sunday, “We are hearing feedback that certain small businesses are concerned about the burden” of paid sick leave.
The relief package passed by the House also, among other things, requires private health plans to cover coronavirus testing at no cost and puts $1 billion into emergency state grants for providing unemployment insurance benefits.
But according to Vox, “Republicans in the past have long been skeptical of implementing paid sick leave programs … and it seems like the coronavirus relief bill simply offers the latest opportunity for them to make their point.”
Under the House legislation, however, the federal government would cover the costs for small businesses that offer paid sick leave. “Much of the Republican pushback … appears to discount this fact,” Vox noted.
According to The New York Times, the bill guarantees sick leave only to about 20% of workers.