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Within two weeks of taking office, President Joe Biden has quickly introduced the American Rescue Plan, which his administration has said will help U.S. families and workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic by including (among other directives) direct stimulus payments, a raised minimum wage and bolstering paid leave.

Last month, Conexpo-Con/Agg 365 talked to attorney Iris Halpern, of the Denver-based law firm Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, about the legal support construction workers are entitled to during the pandemic.

We discussed those points again with Halpern and went over Biden’s new proposals for helping U.S. workers, especially those in the construction industry.

Strengthening paid and medical leave

Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in spring 2020, and according to the White House, that legislation helped decrease Covid-19 infections by 400 cases per state per day – which translated to one prevented case per day per 1,300 workers. The FFCRA allowed employees the option to take up to two weeks of paid sick leave.

However, the FFCRA only applied to companies with more than 50 and fewer than 500 employees, and the Center for American Progress estimated those exemptions excluded 106 million U.S. workers from paid leave coverage.

And although a government down payment in December 2020 extended the FFCRA’s tax credits to March, that extension did not renew the requirement that employers provide paid leave.

Biden’s proposed plan will work doubly by putting that paid leave requirement back in place for employers and by eliminating exemptions for employers with fewer than 50 and more than 500 employees.

Halpern predicted last month that Biden would expand paid leave coverage, and she said his plan should benefit more than 100 million workers.

In terms of medical leave, the FFCRA provided paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to Covid-19.

Biden’s broadens benefits and definitions by providing “over 14 weeks of paid sick and family and medical leave to help parents with additional caregiving responsibilities when a child or loved one’s school or care center is closed; for people who have or are caring for people with COVID-19 symptoms, or who are quarantining due to exposure; and for people needing to take time to get the vaccine.”

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