ND Dems unveil COVID Sick Leave Fund

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 5:30 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota Democrats are proposing a bill to give paid leave for workers who catch COVID-19. They say it will provide financial security during uncertain times.

Under the Democrats proposal, qualified workers could receive up to $6,000 over a 4-week span. And they unveiled it the same day North Dakota hit another single-day record for coronavirus cases.

It’s called the Emergency Paid Leave Fund. It would take part of the remaining CARES Act money, and be used to financially assist workers stuck at home with COVID-19.

“Employers are asking workers to return to the workplace and workers are wondering what those protections are going to be knowing that the risks are always going to be there. And too many North Dakotans continue to face that choice of being at work or staying at home if they’re sick,” said Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck.

To qualify, a person must have or live with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 and are paid with a 1099 rather than W-2 or do not or have used at least 80% of their sick leave.

“It will provide some economic security for the North Dakota workers who have returned to work or might be expected to work soon; and it encourages people to make the right decision to stay home if they are sick or to be in quarantine if they have been in close contact with someone,” said Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, D-Fargo.

This proposal won’t be sent through the legislature like a spending bill. Since it uses CARES Act dollars, it must be proposed to the Emergency Commission; a 6-member body of the Executive Branch and Legislative leadership. And some members don’t think it’s time for a program like this.

“I know that we’ve done a lot for individuals. We’ve done a lot for small businesses. And as far as paid leave for people who have coronavirus, we just haven’t had much at this time. Now, if all of a sudden, we have lots of people, I’m sure we’ll take a look at it,” said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner.

During the last Commission meeting, there were talks of focusing on building and infrastructure projects for the counties. This isn’t the first time the Democrats have called for legislative action regarding the CARES Act.

Just a few weeks ago, they requested a special session of the state legislature to allocate the remaining CARES Act funds and propose a $1 billion infrastructure bill which was denied.

Copyright 2020 KFYR. All rights reserved.

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