COVID-19 supplemental sick leave: Frontline workers push to bring back paid leave in California

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There's currently a push to bring back COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave as coronavirus cases rise, and those sick with COVID-19 are being asked to stay home.

As the COVID-19 spread continues breaking records, many frontline workers are sounding the alarm and calling for increased protections.

"I tested positive for COVID. And it was right before Christmas. It was not fun. So I did report it to my manager, and I stayed home to recover, and to stop the spread," said Rhiannon Ramos, a frontline worker.

Ramos works at a grocery store. She learned firsthand that the COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave that was required by the state has expired.

"I did call my corporate office and inquired about the supplemental paid sick leave. And I was informed that they did not keep the supplemental paid sick leave that was mandated until September 2021," Ramos explained.

Ramos, other frontline workers, and labor unions are calling on the state to bring those protections back.

"It will also help reduce the strain on our crowded hospitals by allowing people who are sick to take care of themselves and protect others from infection," said frontline worker Georgette Bradford.

Jeffrey Nuguid is a registered nurse currently sick with COVID-19. He had to use his paid time off.

"Some of my colleagues might not even be getting paid because they haven't had enough PTO accrued. Our nurse workforce is exhausted and we need the governor and the legislature to help with us," said Nuguid.

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Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, D-East Los Angeles, is backing the efforts.

"The big difference between the extension that we did last year was that there was federal funding to also help small businesses and ensure that there was additional support. That federal funding is no longer available," said Carrillo.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest budget calls for new legislation for supplemental paid sick leave policies. It's now a matter of how and when.

"What we have before us is an opportunity with the $46 billion surplus in the state budget, an opportunity for the governor, for the Senate and for the assembly to be creative in terms of what does this look like if we're going to move it forward," added Carrillo.

Labor leaders say the measure should be retroactive and last at least until the end of 2022.

"We used to be called heroes and thanked and you know, there were cartoons of us with capes on our backs. And you know, now we're forced to choose between our bills being paid in the state of public health," Ramos said.

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