DES MOINES, Iowa — New research suggests access to emergency paid leave could help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Supporters of a broader paid-time-off proposal say it’s needed in states such as Iowa, where there is no such requirement.
The study, led by Cornell University and the Swiss Economic Institute, said states with access to emergency paid leave during the crisis have seen 400 fewer COVID cases per day.
Dawn Huckelbridge, director of the Paid Leave for All campaign, demands the U.S. Senate vote on a relief bill from the House that would extend and make bigger temporary protections.
They are set to expire in December, and Huckelbridge said the time to act is now.
“The United States is one of the only countries in the whole world that has no kind of national paid-leave policy,” Huckelbridge explained. “That’s been a crisis in the making for quite some time. But that meant that when the pandemic hit, over 33 million of us did not have access to a single guaranteed paid sick day.”
There is no Iowa law requiring private employers to provide sick leave, paid or unpaid, although many of them do offer the benefit.
Opponents of a paid leave policy, including some business groups, say it would create substantial costs for employers.
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he isn’t willing to allow for a vote on a new relief bill until after the election.
Sue Dinsdale, executive director of the Iowa Citizen Action Network, said having a broader national policy is crucial for the state, especially since the current federal protections exempt businesses with 500 or more employees.
And she noted it’s harder on women, who make up nearly half of the state’s workforce.
“I spoke with a mother the other day who was caring for her children and her father and she used up the time that she could, and ended up having to leave her job in order to care for both generations of her family,” Dinsdale described.
And Dinsdale added more of those scenarios could play out during the crisis, given Iowa’s aging population.
She and the group are calling out Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst for voting against certain leave proposals by releasing ads in the state.
Ernst did not respond to a request for comment.
A poll by Paid Leave for All Action and Global Strategy Group found 85% of respondents in battleground states said they supported paid leave during COVID-19 and beyond.