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Northam Ceremonially Signs Sick Leave Bill for Caregivers

Jahd Khalil

Governor Northam backed a bill granting some home healthcare workers paid sick leave in March, but gathered lawmakers and advocates for a ceremonial signing on Tuesday.

The law requires employers to give home healthcare workers in Medicaid programs paid sick leave. The new law gives them 40 hours of paid sick leave if they work an average of 20 hours a week or 90 hours a month. Workers would accrue the sick days.

“This pandemic shone very bright light on the inequities in the work environment. For over a year home care workers have been serving on the front lines of COVID,” said Thomasine Wilson of the Service Employees International Union. “We are only getting paid sick days in 2021 because of the ugly legacy of racism and sexism in the Commonwealth.”

The law allows employees to take time off to care for their own mental or physical health, or to care for their family members with health issues.

“We can finally take a moment to breathe and care for ourselves the way we have cared for so many others,” Wilson said.

The bill Delegate Elizabeth Guzman originally introduced would have covered all essential workers, but the Senate narrowed it to include home healthcare workers who are paid through a Medicaid program.

“This is going to be the groundwork. We are committed in the House Democratic caucus to continue to fight until no workers left behind,” she said.

Guzman estimates the new law will help 30,000 workers caring for seniors in their homes and those with disabilities who are cared for through Medicaid.

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

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