Martha McSally Sen. Martha McSally
Photo by Oskar Agredano/Cronkite News

The bill would require employers to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave and 14 additional days during a public health emergency like the coronavirus outbreak. 

Republican senators, including Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, voiced criticism Thursday of emergency legislation meant to provide sick leave and free testing for Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which Democrats introduced last week, would require businesses to provide employees up to seven days of paid sick leave as well as two additional weeks of leave during public health emergencies, like the coronavirus outbreak. 

Arizona is currently one of 12 states that already has a paid-sick-leave law in place. However, not everyone benefits from it. Freelancers, individual contractors, and other workers in the “gig” economy, for example, are not covered.

Nationwide, there are 32 million workers without paid sick leave, and studies show that the vast majority show up at work even if they feel sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highly discourages people from going to work ill, and has repeatedly urged anyone feeling flu-like symptoms to self-quarantine for at least two weeks. The proposed bill in the House would give more Americans the ability to adhere to CDC guidelines without fear of financial hardship.

Senator Martha McSally also expressed concern over the bill’s effects on businesses, but failed to offer an alternative solution. Instead, the senator took the opportunity to criticize the slow speed of government action.

“If we put out some new thing, it usually takes the government six months to 18 months to implement something,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “So let’s look at existing mechanisms and see how we can provide that relief in a way that’s supporting small businesses and families that are impacted right now.”

However, the current emergency package, which still needs to pass in the House before going to the Senate for a vote, would provide relief to small businesses. While businesses would be required to pay for employees’ regular paid sick leave time, businesses of 50 employees or smaller could receive federal reimbursement.

Other provisions of the bill include using Social Security funding to pay for two-thirds of their monthly wage – up to $4,000 – while businesses adjust to the new law. The provision would only apply to workers who are currently sick or taking time off work to care for someone with health problems.

The bill would also put more funding toward unemployment insurance and food programs. And to address the rising concern over the coronavirus, the proposed law would allow anyone – even those without insurance – to be tested for coronavirus for free. 

The relief package is likely to go to a vote in the House on Friday, before moving to the Senate. Despite balking at the bill and blocking a similar relief bill earlier in the week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed a scheduled recess for next week so a solution could be reached.