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Paid Sick Days Proposal is Dead, but Virginia House Moving Forward With Quarantine Leave


Efforts to require paid sick days during the pandemic have already fallen apart in the Senate. But, efforts are moving forward in the House for a quarantine leave.

What happens if you get COVID-19? Or your child gets it, and you can’t work. Or you’re exposed to someone and you're forced into quarantine? Lawmakers are considering a bill that would require employers to offer two weeks of paid quarantine leave. The effort comes after a bill that would have required paid sick days was overwhelmingly defeated by a Senate committee.

Stephen Haner at the Thomas Jefferson Institute is skeptical the paired-down version of the bill would really accomplish anything. 

“There at the stage where instead of sitting down with the people involved and trying to work something out that would be plausible and actually make some benefit," he says. "Now they’re just trying to pass something to pass something.”

Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy says she’s working with a coalition to get a bill that will actually help people. She says the first step in that process is getting rid of a provision that was added by Democrats in the House Appropriations Committee limiting quarantine leave to companies that have 50 employees or more, basically exempting the vast majority of companies in Virginia. 

“The speaker and other leadership really wants to get a bill out, and so we are hopeful that we will be able to come to some agreement on a bill that is worthy of support,” says Bobo.

Advocates say they’re hopeful they can get some kind of meaningful quarantine leave to the Senate now and work on getting paid sick days next year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.