What new COVID sick leave bill means for Central California

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many workers in California will now have access to two weeks of paid sick time related to COVID-19

"Also includes an improved COVID sick leave policy for employees to utilize when they are sick or when their family members are sick," says Jennifer Barrera with the California Chamber of Commerce.

The law, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday morning, applies to companies with 26 or more workers and is retroactive to January 1 of this year.

The state previously had a similar law that expired in September.

Critics say the new legislation leaves a gap for those who had to use vacation, sick time or went without pay because of COVID late last year.

This time around, the law includes $6.1 billion in tax deductions, credits and grants for businesses.

"Addressed the stresses and trials that small businesses and medium and large businesses continue to struggle through," Newsom said.

Lorraine Salazar is Co-owner of Sal's Mexican Restaurants. She says while an employee should never have to choose between isolating while sick and working to keep their paycheck, her business won't break even after paying for employees to take time off due to COVID.

She believes the state should pay workers with the expected $45 billion surplus.

"All of our taxes, we have paid into this surplus," she said. "This surplus should be used to give us immediate offset credits to pay for this retroactive COVID sick pay."

Salazar says the restaurant industry is already struggling to keep people on the job.

"Our industry is one of the hardest-hit industries the last two years," she said.

As COVID cases begin to drop, she wonders if the legitimate need for the paid sick leave will last much longer.

"Though I understand that it's needed, there are people that will abuse the system," she said.

The 80 hours of COVID-19 paid sick leave are available until the end of September 30 and can also be used if you have been advised to quarantine, are caring for COVID-impacted family members or getting a vaccination.
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