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The Center for American Progress estimated up to 3 million Pennsylvanians were left out of federal health emergency paid sick leave. Photo: Emily Neil/AL DÍA News.
The Center for American Progress estimated up to 3 million Pennsylvanians were left out of federal health emergency paid sick leave. Photo: Emily Neil/AL DÍA News.

Getting public health emergency paid sick leave for some Philly workers is long overdue

The bill, which passed Philly City Council on Sept. 10, was first introduced by Councilmember Kendra Brooks on May 1.

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It’s been a long road for some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable frontline workers amid COVID-19, but following City Council’s first Fall session, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a new bill passage.

Councilmember Kendra Brooks introduced legislation back on May 1 that would provide two weeks of emergency paid sick leave to frontline workers in the city alongside co sponsors, councilmembers Helen Gym and Bobby Henon. It passed out of committee on June 22.

Some frontline workers have already been covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but the federal act only covers employees at some public and private employers that have fewer than 500 employees with some small businesses with fewer than 50 also getting exemptions.

The result was an estimated 3 million employees in Pennsylvania left out of coverage according to the Center for American Progress.

Brooks’ bill targets those workers at companies with more than 500 employees, and domestic and gig workers. They too, will now have access to two weeks of public health emergency paid sick leave. 

“Some of these people are now going on seven months without paid sick leave,” she said.

Those companies already providing the adequate paid sick leave will not be forced to provide an extra two weeks.

Brooks also drove home that as the city and state start to reopen, it’s even more important to have the proper protections for frontline workers.

“With restaurants, movie theaters, childcare facilities, and other businesses reopening, Public Health Emergency Leave is coming just in time for Philadelphia,” said Brooks. “It is paramount that we have strong worker protections in place if we are to continue reopening our economy safely.”

Before going up for a vote on Sept. 10, the bill first went through a long process of revision with the help of the city’s Office of Labor, many local unions and worker-led organizations.

“This was truly a collaborative process,” said Brooks.

That collaboration will continue over the next month as the Office of Labor works to clarify some of the language in the bill before it is implemented. 

“When we protect our frontline workers, we protect Philadelphia,” said Brooks.

This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations, focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org
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