The federal government's emergency coronavirus relief law includes paid sick leave benefits for American employees at small to midsize firms who have to take time off because of the spreading virus.
But the law signed by President Trump last week includes exceptions that some analysts said could exclude nearly 20 million private sector workers, including an exemption for small businesses that's causing confusion as to how it will be implemented.
Congressional Democrats have introduced additional legislation to close those gaps and make paid sick leave available to all U.S. workers.
California already has a law providing full- and part-time workers at least three days of paid sick leave each year. Workers in Los Angeles are eligible for twice that: at least six paid sick days annually.
The new federal law -- which marks the first time that paid sick leave has been mandated nationwide -- would expand that for eligible workers, and it came in response to the sudden, dramatic slowdown in U.S. economic activity caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Businesses big and small are shutting down or cutting their operating hours, and a surging number of employees are being furloughed or laid off. That has led to skyrocketing claims for unemployment benefits, and many of those still employed are getting fewer hours of work.
Under the new law, qualified employees include those who have COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus; who are in quarantine; who are caring for a family member affected by the virus -- that is, a relative who has COVID-19, is subject to a government quarantine or has been advised by a doctor to self-quarantine; or who are caring for children whose schools or day care centers have closed. Firms paying the sick leave would be reimbursed with federal tax credits.
Full-time workers would get up to two weeks of paid leave, and part-time workers would get a period of leave equal to the number of hours they work on average over a two-week period.
The payments would be capped at $511 a day for those who are sick with the virus or seeking care, and $200 a day for those caring for a sick family member or children.
The law says the benefit is not contingent on the employee finding a replacement worker, and businesses must post the law's requirements "in conspicuous places" where their employees work.