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Sen. Ling Ling Chang. (Photo: Ling Ling Chang for Senate 2020)

New Bill Would Expand Paid Family Leave Benefits for Those Affected by Coronavirus

SB 943 would give employees in large companies greater coverage and would extend benefits until the end of 2020

By Evan Symon, March 31, 2020 4:23 pm

A new Senate bill designed to give more funding to families struggling to care for children under the COVID-19 coronavirus stay-at-home orders was announced on Monday.

An expansion of the Paid Family Leave program

Senate Bill 943, authored by Senator Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), would add more money from California’s general fund to the state’s Paid Family Leave program. While the program currently covers reimbursement for caring for loved ones when sick or having a new child, it currently doesn’t fully cover everyone currently staying at home due to the coronavirus. According to Chang, a federal plan approved earlier this month failed to account for those who are at home from companies that employ 500 or more people, for current healthcare workers, or for small businesses that opted out.

While the federal plan currently gives a maximum of $200 a day to parents who are currently taking care of kids at home due to school closures, many are not. Chang argues for SB 943 to make coverage available for those who the federal program passes over.

“There are so many people who have followed the rules; they pay taxes, they save money, they scrape by so their kids can go to college. And now this crisis has taken all of that away,” explained Senator Chang in an earlier statement. “I hear from families that are limiting their meals per day to save money or make sure their children have enough food. The extraordinary moment calls for extraordinary responses. And we need to use every tool we have right now.

We can see a world where kids are back in school next year, and people are back at work, but a certain city or county has a surge and needs to shut their schools down. We want this available in those instances, too.”

While SB 943 will not give complete reimbursement of lost pay, as even the federal plan only accounts for an average of two-thirds of pay for affected parents, Senator Chang is currently looking into possible ways to make up the last third of pay not covered by the federal plan with the SB 943 updated Paid Family Leave program.

Coverage until the end of 2020

“She basically wants California to come in with money who the federal program doesn’t cover,” said Los Angeles lawyer Warren Pryce. “A lot of families are home now, not because they physically can’t come into work, but because they need to watch the kids since schools and day cares are out. Work may not be giving them anything, and if the feds aren’t, then they have to rely on savings and stimulus money. That may not cut it.”

“The bill gives families a bridge across, or the closest thing to it, but with state money. It’s like Unemployment Insurance, but for people who still have jobs but can’t come in. You know, they paid in through taxes, and since it’s an emergency, they should get some back to tide them over until things normalize again.”

SB 943 gives a December 2020 end date to the expansion of the Paid Family Leave program, but could be expanded if needed.

Currently awaiting a committee hearing, SB 943 is expected to be one of the first bills to be heard when the emergency recess ends on April 13th.

Evan Symon
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