New Jersey Time to Care Coalition releases paid leave recommendations for coronavirus crisis
Highland Park—The New Jersey Time to Care Coalition (TCC) today published a set of paid leave recommendations for the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health emergencies. As of Friday 50 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in New Jersey.
In a letter to Governor Murphy, the State Legislature’s leadership and other public officials, the TCC summarized the recommendations. The Coalition thanked the Governor and legislators for their championing of paid leave and ensuring that New Jersey leads the nation on these policies. But the letter also noted that despite these strong protections workers still fall through the cracks and crises such as the COVI-19 pandemic will have the most devastating impact on low-income workers and workers of color.
“Thanks to the tireless efforts of Governor Murphy, legislative champions and countless advocates, New Jersey working families have access to some of the strongest paid leave policies in the country,” said Yarrow Willman-Cole, New Jersey Citizen Action Workplace Justice Program Director and co-convener of the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition. “But during this nationwide health crisis we need to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. That means taking some important further steps to ensure all New Jersey workers have access to paid leave.”
The TCC’s recommendations included, but were not limited to:
- Increasing awareness of what law and programs are already available for NJ workers through social media, press releases, and at press conferences. Encouraging employers, schools and local government to include information in their outreach to employees, parents and the community. Fast-track hiring of more Department of Labor staff to assist with the outreach effort
- Increasing the basic number of paid sick days required to be provided by employers in the Earned Sick Leave Law currently from 5 to 7 and require that employers also provide 14 additional days available immediately for workers to use during this and other public health emergencies. Including coverage for all workers currently excluded by the law during public health emergencies.
- Including short-term job protection for all workers taking Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and Family Leave Insurance (FLI) leave for reasons related to public health emergencies.
- Ensuring all benefit programs cover all workers, regardless of eligibility, industry, or immigration status during the pandemic and be as accessible as possible. Temporarily waiving minimum earning requirements for workers for Temporary Disability, Family Leave and Unemployment Insurance if dealing with quarantine, self-isolation, illness or caregiving during this and other public health emergencies.
- Allowing for self-certification for TDI or FLI leave related to quarantine, isolation, or school or work closures in lieu of medical care providers’ direct certification.
“New Jersey has been a leader when it comes to providing paid leave. During this COVID-19 public health emergency or any other that emerges, New Jersey should set the standard for other states and the nation and adopt our recommendations,” said Lou Kimmel, Executive Director of the worker organization New Labor. “Workers shouldn’t have to choose between staying home without compensation or putting themselves and others at risk just for a paycheck.”
“In a time of crisis, it is critical that government respond quickly with policy changes and interventions that protect the public and mitigate harm,” said Brandon McKoy, President, New Jersey Policy Perspective New Jersey. “We can take a big step to do that by increasing awareness and improving the benefits of the state’s paid sick leave and paid family leave laws. Strengthening these policies will ensure workers do not have to choose between going to work sick and supporting their family. NJPP strongly supports the recommendations made by the Time to Care Coalition and urges Governor Murphy and lawmakers to implement them as quickly as possible.”
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey needs to ensure more temporary protections for low-wage workers,” said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. “Some of the temporary protections the state should mandate include expanding the number of paid sick days available to workers, removing waiting periods for access to paid sick time, and including all workers in paid time off protections during this public health emergency. No one should have to worry about not meeting basic needs like access to enough food, having a roof over their head, or being able to care for themselves or a loved one as a result of a loss of pay.”
“Paid leave is critical, especially for working moms across the Melinated Spectrum,” said, Jaye Wilson, President of Melinated Moms. “While the national statistics show 80% of American moms are head of household as a single mother, more than half of them are on or below the poverty line – the need to maintain financial security is paramount. As we see this pandemic unfold, more working mothers are being confronted with the decision of choosing to go to work during this crisis or suffer the consequences of financial burden. Our Coalition’s recommendations will help ensure working mothers will not have to choose between caring for their children or falling into poverty.”
“In this time of emergency the health and safety are priority,” said Rosanna Rodríguez, Co-Executive Director of the Laundry Workers Center. “Let’s act as a community, we urge to the state leaders, employers and every single individual to come together and provide the necessary tools to eradicate the virus. We need to expand our Paid sick days law and make sure retaliation would not be take. Employers should provide the adequate equipment to make sure the most vulnerable people are safe at the workplace. Our well-being depends on them – it is the ethical thing to do.”
“The SPAN Parent Advocacy Network’s foremost commitment is to those with the greatest need due to disability or health/mental health needs; poverty; discrimination; foster care, child welfare, or juvenile justice systems; geographic location; or other special circumstances,” said Diana Autin, Executive Director of SPAN. “As home to Family Voices of NJ, we are keenly aware that the coronavirus has put an extra stressor on already vulnerable populations, including families of children with special healthcare needs and complex medical conditions. NJ needs to expand family leave protections for underserved populations under these extraordinary circumstances. We support the recommendations of the NJ Time to Care Coalition of which we are a member.”
“As a parent of, and advocate for families of children with special needs, it is essential that medical personnel are even more vigilant during this time,” said Lauren Agoratus, State Coordinator with Family Voices NJ at SPAN. “A home health aide informed me the person on her shift before her was sick as a dog. When the aide asked the other why she was there the response was “I need the money.” She was obviously unaware of NJ Paid Sick Days which include public health emergencies and putting a vulnerable population at increased risk. And I am worried the new aide may have then brought those germs to my daughter.”
“This pandemic is a sharp reminder for the public of the economic and social realities of working-class immigrant communities, most of whom can not stock-pile food for 2 weeks or afford to not work,” said Adil Ahmed, Director of Worker Organizing and Policy, Make the Road New Jersey. We echo the aforementioned recommendations, and call on Governor Murphy, Labor Commissioner Asaro-Angelo, Senator Sweeney, and Speaker Coughlin to ensure that all workers, regardless of immigration status, have access to the state’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and Family Leave Insurance (FLI) programs, just as they do with the state’s Earned Sick Leave law.”
The New Jersey Time to Care (TTC) Coalition works to promote equitable access to earned sick and safe days and paid family & medical leave. We advocate for paid leave and other policies that support working families and their ability to care for themselves and their loved ones.