House Democrats on Friday revamped the emergency paid sick leave benefit in the coronavirus economic package after prolonged talks with the Trump administration, but it remained unclear how much Republican support the legislation would garner without President Trump’s explicit backing.
Over the course of many negotiations involving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the emergency paid leave provision was rewritten.
Instead of the Social Security Administration implementing a sick leave payment for individuals absent from work for coronavirus-related reasons, now employers are mandated to cover the sick leave wages directly, according to a new draft of the legislation reviewed by Fox News.
In return for offering paid sick leave during the global coronavirus pandemic, employers would get a tax credit.
The revisions happened after the GOP flagged the “major” concerns about the sick leave legislation on Thursday. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., criticized the initial legislation for creating a paid sick leave program through the Social Security Administration that he said would take six months to set up and hamper the agency’s normal functioning of disbursing checks to senior citizens.
He also objected to forcing permanent paid sick leave “for all businesses without exemptions and no sunsets,” McCarthy said.
Democrats appear to have tackled these concerns, according to a draft reviewed by Fox News. House leaders signaled they can get a final agreement out today for a vote.
“We have to pass this today,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.
Trump has been pressing for a payroll tax holiday to give some economic relief to Americans, but Pelosi has not included that in this bill, though she’s signaled more legislation could be needed as the scope and hurt of the pandemic is fully realized.
Under a draft of the bill out Friday morning, full-time employees out of work due to the coronavirus, such as illness, quarantine, or caretaking, would be allowed 14 paid sick days, equal to their regular full rate or the minimum wage – whichever is greater. Part-time workers are also eligible for paid time off that’s equal to the number of hours they work in a two-week period.
The legislation also expands emergency family and medical leave protections to account for the pandemic and ensure job protections for employees returning to work after a coronavirus-related leave. Employers would be required to provide 12-week paid family leave at a rate no less than two-thirds of an employee’s pay, after an initial 14-day absence that may consist of unpaid leave.
The legislation also provides free coronavirus testing, increases unemployment insurance to states, and expands food assistance programs.
Trump, however, remains the big wildcard. House Republicans are waiting to see if Trump supports the coronavirus package before committing to it. McCarthy went to the White House Friday as negotiations continue.
Meanwhile, House lawmakers were advised to stay close as the leaders try to cement a deal that can be voted on later Friday. The Senate, however, already left town and will return to work next week.
Fox News’ Caroline McKee and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.