House COVID package includes 600 hours paid leave for feds

A provision from the House Oversight and Reform Committee would give feds 600 hours – or 15 weeks – of emergency paid leave to recover from COVID-19 or manage dependents whose care has been upended by the health crisis.

US Capitol (Ann Cantelow/Shutterstock.com)
 

The House Oversight committee is set to markup provisions for the coming COVID-19 relief and recovery bill that includes new money to support emergency paid leave for civilian federal employees.

One measure provides $570 million for emergency paid leave for the civilian federal workforce, to cover up to 600 hours of paid leave for feds who are required to quarantine, contract COVID-19, need to care for a child whose school is closed or taking care of a family member whose caregiver is sidelined due to the pandemic.

This emergency paid leave would be available through Sept. 30, 2021, and it includes Postal Service workers. Feds who leverage this new pool of leave, assuming it is passed by Congress and signed into law, would have to first exhaust their existing sick leave.

The House is in the midst of finalizing a planned $1.9 trillion relief bill for a vote on the House floor. Other committees are marking up proposed legislation this week under the budget reconciliation process. This is designed to allow Democrats, who control the majority in the Senate by the slimmest of margins, to put the relief package up for a vote without first obtaining a 60-vote majority to end debate.

"Congress must take bold, urgent action to confront this crisis and show the American people that help is on the way," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a statement.

The Oversight legislation also contains $195.3 billion for states and the District of Columbia and $130.2 billion for cities and counties. While federal government jobs have been largely unaffected by the pandemic driven economic crisis, cities and states have shed hundreds of thousands of jobs over the past year.

Republicans on the committee are arguing against the relief bill, and specifically against the benefits for federal employees.

"It's ... unfair to the American people to provide an additional 600 hours of paid leave on top of regular paid leave to federal workers who already enjoy many work perks," said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), ranking member of the Oversight committee.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of the Oversight panel's Subcommittee on Government Operations reintroduced a bill on Thursday that previously passed the House last September, named the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act after a childcare worker at a Marine Corps who passed away from coronavirus complications.

It would require federal agencies to publish a public safety plan and continuity of operation plans for the pandemic, which would include items like their coronavirus testing and contact-tracing procedures.

Agencies would also be obligated to outline their vaccination plans for employees and their visitation policies at federal buildings, as well as what options employees who are high-risk for COVID-19 or live with high-risk people have for alternatives to working in the office.

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