Senate panel weighs paid leave proposals for post-pandemic workplace

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — As more Americans return to the workplace amid the pandemic, they face new challenges balancing childcare.

Parents can’t go back to work without someone to look after their kids, but even if they can find childcare, some worry they could be putting their kids’ health at risk.

“Daycare could be a source of spread so many of them are staying closed while businesses stay open,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH. “It puts parents and caregivers in impossible situations.”

It’s a side effect of the coronavirus crisis that brought together Democrats and Republicans in a Senate Finance Committee round table discussion Thursday.

“Our economy cannot truly reopen unless working moms and dads know that their children are able to be in a safe environment,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-IA.

Congress passed a temporary rule to help parents stay home with their kids by expanding paid leave for certain employees through the end of the year, but now senators are looking at post-pandemic solutions.

“Paid leave is absolutely essential to protect vulnerable infants, to financially support parents and to ensure babies have a healthy start to life,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA.

Cassidy has been working on legislation to allow new moms and dads to get an advance on their child tax credits to either stay home with their baby or pay for daycare and other expenses.

Fellow Republicans, like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, have been working on similar bills for new families.

“The irony of paid leave is the less you actually need it, the more likely you are to have it,” Rubio said. 

However, Democrats argue these proposals leave out the workers who need to care for their own health issues or those of an adult family member. That’s why Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, has been working on a national paid leave program.

“This crisis has also shown us why only offering paid leave to new parents is not nearly enough,” Gillibrand said.

The House has already passed additional paid leave for parents during the pandemic, but it’s unclear if the Senate’s version will include it.

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