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COVID relief bill provides stay-at-home payments to federal workers

WASHINGTON — A provision in the House version of the $1.9 trillion relief package would provide additional help for federal workers with COVID-19, helping family members with the coronavirus and caring for children whose schools are closed because of the pandemic.

The $570 million Emergency Federal Leave Plan would provide up to 600 hours of paid leave to federal civil workers who have no sick time remaining but need time off to care for themselves or others because of illness and school closures caused by the coronavirus.

Critics have panned the program as a perk to pay federal workers to stay home, but supporters said the relief compensates postal workers, Transportation Security Administration and federal judicial personnel forced to work despite the risks of infection.

There are roughly 3,000 federal workers in the Las Vegas area who would be eligible for the benefit, if approved by Congress and signed into law.

“No one should have to choose between their jobs and caring for loved ones who are battling COVID-19,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

“Emergency paid leave should not be a luxury for any hardworking full-time employee, especially in the midst of a pandemic,” she added.

“Our bill will support postal workers and other federal employees who have helped us get through these difficult times,” Titus said.

Also in the House bill is a provision written and approved by the House Ways and Means Committee that provides tax credits to private-sector employers to increase and extend paid sick leave until Sept. 30, the same date that the emergency federal leave plan expires.

The tax credits are aimed at providing all workers with the same benefit as the nation struggles to rebound economically, supporters said.

The Emergency Federal Leave Plan in the House version of the $1.9 trillion relief bill is not included in the Senate legislation, which is being written under special reconciliation rules to avoid a 60-vote filibuster and allow for a simple majority vote.

Democrats control the 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaking vote.

If the provision is not added, a House-Senate conference committee would determine whether it would be included in the final version of the legislation.

While critics call the federal worker benefit plan a bailout for bureaucrats, lawmakers in areas such as Washington, D.C., and those with large numbers of workers at federal facilities said many civil service workers are on the job without being inoculated and are competing for vaccines at state and local centers.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the bill would provide $21,000 to federal employees with kids out of school but ignores millions of parents outside D.C. “who are also suffering from school closures.”

But Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said the emergency leave proposal for postal workers and federal employees would eliminate worry that they “have to choose between their jobs or caring for loved ones who get infected with coronavirus.”

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