Mon., March 17, 2020

The Virginia Interfaith Center calls on Governor Northam to enact emergency regulations to provide paid sick days and employment protection for workers

RICHMOND – Faith leaders and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) sent a letter to Governor Northam today calling on him to enact emergency regulations to ensure that workers have access to paid sick time for those who are infected, and long-term medical leave coverage for those who do not recover quickly. The coronavirus is spreading across the Commonwealth at lightning speed and if sick workers must take time off, they need help to pay their bills and buy food.

This afternoon, Virginia reported 67 cases of the coronavirus and the numbers are rising every day. Governor Northam announced a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. The Virginia Department of Health has asked those who have any symptoms of the virus or flu to stay home and NOT go to work.

For the 1.2 million Virginians who have no paid sick days, it can be impossible to comply with this request. “We must support workers and protect the public from the spread of the virus during this worldwide pandemic,” said Kim Bobo, VICPP’s Executive Director.

VICPP worked closely with Senator Barbara Favola and Delegate Elizabeth Guzman to pass a paid sick days bill Senate Bill 481 that would require large business (with 15 or more employees) to provide up to 40 hours/five days of paid sick time per year. The bill passed the House of Delegates and was killed in the Senate. Although this bill would not have gone into effect until January 1, 2021, it would have set the framework upon which emergency measures could have been adopted.

Establishing an emergency paid sick day standard now is a sure way to help slow the spread of COVID-19. A 2018 study revealed that cities with paid sick day policies had 40 percent lower rates of the spread of infectious diseases.

More than 1.2 million Virginia workers (41 percent of private-sector workers) have no paid sick days or paid time off. To make matters worse, 81 percent of food service workers, 75 percent of child care workers, and 47 percent of nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides have no paid sick days. The foodservice and health care professions require close contact with the public and diseases can spread quickly in restaurants and health care facilities. Recent studies reveal that parents who have paid sick days are five times more likely to stay home and care for their children than those who don’t have any paid sick days. And children recover 31 percent faster when they are cared for by a parent.

“This pandemic has demonstrated the immediate need for paid sick days and employment protection for workers in the Commonwealth. We call on the Governor to institute emergency regulations to protect workers, families, our health care system, and our food system. No one should be forced to go to work sick or lose their job to take time off due to the Coronavirus,” said Ben Hoyne, VICPP’s Policy Director.

“Virginia is facing a moral crisis. How do we take care of the most vulnerable among us in times of crisis? We give thanks for all that Governor Northam and his team are doing to protect Virginians. We ask the Governor to give special attention to the hardworking Virginians who live paycheck to paycheck and to make sure workers have paid sick days in this time of crisis,” said Julie Swanson, President of the VICPP Board of Directors.

Link to letter to Governor Northam

Link to Paid Sick Days Fact Sheet

Watch the video, “All Workers Need Paid Sick Days”

Media contact:
Roberta Oster
Communications Director
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

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The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy advocates economic, racial, social, and environmental justice in Virginia’s policies and practices through education, prayer, and action. VICPP is a non-partisan coalition of more than 750 faith communities working for a more just society.