Paid Sick Leave Proven to Slow COVID-19, Emergency Commission Must Add Emergency Leave Fund

BISMARCK, ND —  A recent study by the journal Health Affairs showed that Emergency Sick Leave has helped limit the spread of COVID-19, a virus that is taking lives and harming livelihoods as North Dakota cases continue rising. The federal emergency paid leave program is set to expire Dec. 31 and has several gaps that limit access to it. With the Emergency Commission scheduled this week to reallocate unspent CARES Act dollars, Rep. Karla Rose Hanson (Fargo) and Sen. Erin Oban (Bismarck) renewed their call for an emergency paid leave fund that would support North Dakotans who need to stay home when they are sick or to quarantine without fear of losing their income. Paid leave is proven to help slow the spread of the virus while targeting economic assistance to those who most need it.

North Dakota is consistently at the top of daily per capita positive COVID-19 cases, deaths attributed to the virus are rising, and hospital emergency care and ICU beds are growing dangerously crowded. Against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, Gov. Burgum recently loosened quarantine guidelines for quarantining when both contacts wore a mask, calling his new policy “an incentive.” Paid Leave would be a realistic incentive for workers to not only get tested and comply with all safety guidelines but for employers to support both their employees and public health.

Rep. Karla Rose Hanson said:

“When people go to work sick, outbreaks occur, which is why paid leave plays such an important role in this pandemic. It makes it feasible for working families, those struggling the most in the COVID-19 economy, to follow public health guidelines that keep our communities safe and businesses open. It prevents North Dakotans from having to choose between paying their rent and potentially spreading a virus that has taken the lives of far too many North Dakotans already. Public health and the economy go hand in hand, and an Emergency Paid Leave Fund is a data-backed solution that unites the two.”

Sen. Erin Oban said: 

“North Dakota is in the middle of a joint public health and economic crisis, and it’s clear that what we’ve been doing to date isn’t working. It’s time to reinvent how we respond to these crises and better target the use of these one-time federal resources. An Emergency Paid Leave Fund would fill existing gaps to support working people who make smart, selfless decisions to stay home when they test positive or are instructed to quarantine. It will save lives and livelihoods while supporting businesses, working families, and the economy. It’s time to stop blindly throwing money at the problem and strategically use tools like a paid leave fund that are proven to work.”