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Bay Area Officials Seek Emergency Paid Sick Leave For Essential Workers In Coronavirus Pandemic

(CBS SF) -- Elected officials and workers from three different Bay Area cities announced Tuesday they're pushing for emergency paid sick leave ordinances to protect essential workers during the stay-at-home order due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar, San Jose City Councilwoman Maya Esparza, and Oakland City Councilwoman Sheng Thao, workers like grocery clerks, janitors, and delivery people urgently need the protections in order to ensure their family's health and their own.

The ordinances would allow for workers at large companies, defined as having 500 employees or more, to use the emergency paid sick leave if they must be quarantined, have COVID-19 symptoms, or are caring for children or someone who is sick.

The ordinances aim to build on the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, signed by President Donald Trump last month. The act requires that small- and mid-sized businesses, defined as ones with less than 500 employees, provide workers an additional two weeks of paid sick leave during public health emergencies.

In San Francisco, Mar has already introduced an emergency ordinance to enact the paid sick leave and the city's Board of Supervisors are set to vote on the ordinance during Tuesday afternoon's meeting.

In San Jose, Esparza said councilmembers there were also set to vote on a paid sick leave ordinance during their meeting Tuesday.

In Oakland, a paid sick leave ordinance is underway but hasn't yet been introduced.

Esparza said because of the pandemic, residents have become reliant on essential workers, as well as gig workers, like Uber or Lyft drivers and delivery people.

"In the time of global pandemic, we're more reliant on these workers more than ever and so we owe it to them to ensure that they're covered by this policy," she said.

"When Congress took action to expand paid sick leave for workers, they left out more than 50 percent of our workforce by exempting the largest employers. This carveout for corporate America during a time of crisis is inexcusable," Mar said.

"When sick people have to choose between their livelihoods or their health, we're all worse off. When parents have to choose between a paycheck or staying home with their kid when schools are closed, we're all worse off," he said.

"These workers, who are predominantly people of color, are not only on the frontlines of this health crisis, but will be, and also are, among the most hardest hit," said Matthew Napoli, policy director for Thao. "The health of one of us is really dependent on the health of all of us."

"If I had to quarantine myself, how would I pay my rent?" asked Keven Adams, a private security officer in the Bay Area. "We have to choose between staying at home or paying our bills. It's a rough situation."

Mar said San Francisco Mayor London Breed has already voiced support for the ordinance. Additionally, San Jose Mayor Liccardo is also supporting the San Jose ordinance.

The elected officials are hoping the local ordinances can set the stage for state legislation on the matter when the Legislature returns to session.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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