Sick leave bill for COVID-19 killed in Virginia Senate panel

A Virginia Senate committee has killed legislation that would have required employers to provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave for workers who have to quarantine because of COVID-19.

The bill proposed by Prince William County Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, a Democrat, said people who contracted the coronavirus or had been exposed to it, should “not have to choose between a paycheck and further spreading the disease.”

Guzman, a native of Peru, said Black and Latino people “have been disproportionately affected by this disease, in part because many are front line workers with no benefits, who can’t afford to stay home.”

However, Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, a Republican from James City focused on another group affected by COVID-19.

“This bill is insensitive, in the lack of perspective to the financial stress that Virginia businesses are currently experiencing, during this pandemic situation,” Norment said. “And we have no business placing additional stress on our businesses during this period of time.”

The 14-1 vote by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee striking down Guzman’s bill effectively closes the possibility of passing a sick leave requirement during a special legislative session called in part to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The same committee killed a similar bill earlier in the session.

Only Sen. Adam Ebbin, a Democrat from Alexandria, voted against the motion to kill the bill.

After the vote, Guzman, a likely candidate for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor next year told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “This is dangerous to public health and a slap in the face to hardworking Virginians across the commonwealth.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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