Washington, DC - Small business organizations and Paid leave advocate representing thousands of small businesses sent the following letter to key Congressional leadership today to urge including popular paid leave programs in COVID relief.
Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:
As the COVID pandemic rages anew across every state in this country, small businesses are on the frontlines - making daily decisions that impact our employees, customers, families and general public health. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed with bipartisan support at the start of this pandemic has made it much easier for small businesses to make decisions that align public and economic health. We are writing to urge you to extend this vital program.
The country’s more than 30 million small businesses employ almost half of the country’s private sector workforce. Amid the health crisis and plummeting consumer spending, these businesses face unprecedented threats to their survival, endangering jobs for millions of workers. In the face of these challenges, small business owners are doing everything within and often beyond their means to stay afloat while operating as safely as possible during the pandemic.
Small businesses need relief in the form of additional direct support grants, and clear PPP loan forgiveness, to weather this crisis. We are encouraged that discussions have begun anew about a relief package. Families First has also been a critical form of COVID relief, and we urge Congress to extend the emergency paid leave protections in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) through 2021 and expand needed coverage under the program.
This deadly pandemic has underscored the inextricable connection between health, small business viability, and a strong economy. Here are just a few statements about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) from small business owners across the country:
Marcia Saint Hilaire-Finn, owner of Bright Start Early Care, Washington DC shared: “Families First was a lifeline for my business and my employees just when we needed it. In September, I had to close my early education center...when we had a coronavirus exposure. Having access to this paid leave meant I could continue to pay my entire staff—18 people—even though they couldn’t work because of the public health measures we took.”
Tiffany Turner, owner of Adrift Hospitality, operating in Oregon and Washington state shared: “When we found out one employee of ours had tested positive, we took immediate action. We closed for sanitation and the employee took leave. Having the paid sick days option afforded by the Families First Act meant that our employee could recuperate without losing their pay. For our business, it meant we could replace that employee during their absence without further upsetting our books. A program like this does exactly what it is supposed to do: incentivizes people to make the right decision rather than punish employers and employees for looking out for everyone’s health. We should build from this program to make it stronger and available to all.”
Paid leave is a vital policy solution in combating the long-lasting ramifications of this pandemic and recession. The policy is proven to curb the spread of COVID-19. According to a recent study from researchers at Cornell University and the Swiss Economic Institute, states with new access to emergency paid leave during the pandemic have seen 400 fewer cases per day, further underscoring that paid leave is one of the best tools for slowing the spread of the virus and combating the pandemic.
Giving employees the opportunity to stay home after they get sick or have been exposed to the virus has the added benefit of minimizing the risk of transmission to customers, co-workers, and others in a workplace. To restart our economy and support small, local businesses and restaurants, we must give consumers the assurance of knowing that employees are not forced to show up to work if sick or having been exposed to coronavirus. Business owners understand this. A national survey of 600 small business owners found that two-thirds supported the U.S. having a national policy for paid family and medical leave. Support for paid leave by the owners is also not a partisan issue, with 80% of Democrats, 55% of Republican, and 53% of Independent owners in favor of a national policy for paid family and medical leave.
These small businesses deserve a sustainable paid leave foundation that supports their efforts to maintain safe workplaces and public spaces and contributes to a pandemic resilient economy. Now more than ever, small businesses and their employees need a program that allows owners and workers to stay connected while taking time from work to care for themselves and/or their loved ones, including time for quarantine and isolation.
FFCRA is working for small business. It is urgent and necessary to extend the emergency paid leave protections included in the FFCRA immediately, to direct the Department of Labor to fully promote and implement them, and for Congress to expand to cover all workers in this crisis. Paid leave is not just what small business employees deserve, it is vital to keeping our entire communities safe and our economy resilient.
American Sustainable Business Council
National Partnership for Women and Families
Main Street Alliance
Paid Leave for All