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Senator Murray Statement on Senate Passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

In remarks on the Senate floor, Murray promises to continue pushing for paid sick days and medical leave provision in the next coronavirus response package


Senator Murray: “While I'm glad we finally passed this second round of relief, there continues to be an enormous amount we've got to do to ensure that workers, families, those on the front lines of our health care system, and small businesses have the resources and support to deal with the enormous challenge the coronavirus presents in Washington state and nationwide.”


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement on the Senate passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).


Earlier today, Senator Murray offered a modified version of her PAID Leave Act as an amendment to FFCRA. Her amendment would ensure that all workers have paid leave and all small businesses are quickly reimbursed for that paid leave this year and next, given the bipartisan recognition that a federal paid leave requirement is a critical part of this response. While Senator Murray’s amendment was blocked by Republicans, she will continue to push her PAID Leave Act in the next aid package to protect workers and small businesses. More information on the PAID Leave Act is available here.


"While I'm glad we finally passed this second round of relief, there continues to be an enormous amount we've got to do to ensure that workers, families, those on the front lines of our health care system, and small businesses have the resources and support to deal with the enormous challenge the coronavirus presents in Washington state and nationwide.”


"In the next phase of our work I'm going to continue fighting to make sure we respond directly to the public health crisis we face, and to put the people and communities hurt most directly first in all our efforts. That includes ensuring every worker can get paid leave and every business gets immediately reimbursed for it."


Senator Murray’s floor remarks calling for a vote on her amendment, as prepared for delivery, are below.


“Thank you. M. President, I’ve been in the Senate for 9/11, for Katrina, for the 2008 financial crisis—and I still have never experienced anything like what we’re seeing today.”


“These are truly extraordinary circumstances and the stories I’m hearing from my constituents—and from people across the country—are crushing.


“And some of the most heartbreaking stories are the ones about people who want to do the right thing in this moment—but are having to choose between staying home as public health experts say we must, and paying the rent or putting food on the table.”


“I’m hearing from workers like Cristal Westwood from Auburn, Washington. Cristal and her husband just welcomed their first child on February 7th of this year. They both have autoimmune diseases, but her husband’s job isn’t allowing him to work from home.”


“Cristal says, ‘This is an extremely stressful situation for our family. We have the option for my husband to take leave without pay for the next month or so, but that would mean that we wouldn’t have any income coming in to support our family. He could use up all of his sick and vacation time, but that would mean that he doesn’t have any left for the rest of the year in case something happens. Both of these options don’t seem right.’”


“M. President I agree, that doesn’t seem right.”

“A Pastor in Tukwila, Washington shared similar concerns from a parent in their congregation with school-aged children who worries: ‘What if they call off school? I don’t have anyone to care for the kids. Then, without a paycheck, we will get evicted. As it is, we already run close to eviction every month.’”


“And then there’s Chris, who lives in Seattle, works in a grocery store, and is at high risk for coronavirus. She writes, ‘It’s an awful decision: Go to work and put your life at risk, or lose your job, lose your income, and lose your insurance. I haven’t committed either way at this point. I’m trying to find a way to stay home.’”


“And I’m not just hearing from workers, M. President, but from small business owners all across our state as well. People who own restaurants and shops—everyone from farmers to fishers—who are used to the spring being a time when the phones are ringing off the hook.”


“Now—no one is coming in the door. No one’s calling. And they want to do the right thing for their workers—but they don’t have the cash flow to keep them on.”


“M. President, people are scared—they feel they’ve gotten the rug pulled out from under them—and they need our help.”

“Unfortunately, here’s what my colleague from Wisconsin wants to do. After the House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan agreement that includes an important step forward to provide more workers the paid sick leave they need for this crisis, his amendment would undo that critical bipartisan work by stripping any paid sick leave progress out of the bill we are voting on today.”


“Instead of helping people keep their jobs and their paychecks by providing sick leave, Senator Johnson’s amendment would force workers to seek compensation through their state unemployment system, meaning they would be on their own until they were compensated by the state; and the unemployment system in each state would be drastically overburdened at a time when workers are going to need it in the event they are laid off.”


“While Democrats are pushing for solutions through Unemployment Insurance to support families and workers in the months ahead, simply using this program as a replacement for the paid sick leave workers need is unacceptable—it’s shameful. We can and must do better.”


“At a time when families are facing impossible decisions, my fellow Senators face a glaringly simple one—we need to be doing as much as we can as fast as we can, and this amendment would set us backwards at the worst possible time.”


“That’s why I’m offering another amendment instead, based on legislation I worked with Senator Gillibrand and Representative DeLauro to introduce yesterday.”

“Our legislation would provide workers with seven days of accrued paid sick leave, two weeks of paid emergency days, and twelve weeks of paid emergency leave, and it would make sure their employers can be quickly and fully reimbursed by the Treasury Department for providing this leave.”


“But for those who may not be ready just yet to agree we need paid sick days and paid leave going forward, permanently—the amended version of the bill I’m introducing today would only provide this support through December 2021.”

“Because my number one priority is getting people the support they need right now for the emergency at hand.”

“This is a commonsense step. It’s good for workers who need to stay home if they are sick or need to take care of family—without losing a job or a paycheck. “


“And it’s good for small businesses, who want to keep their workers and communities safe, and who are struggling to stay afloat during this sudden crisis.”


“It’s the right thing to do for our economy and for public health—and we should get it done as soon as possible.”


“If we don’t do this, if we let this opportunity slip by, we are sending a message to scared people across the country that we still are not willing to acknowledge the scope of the tragedy we are seeing unfold, we are still not listening to the stories like the ones I shared earlier—stories I know my colleagues have heard as well.”


“M. President, we must not—we cannot—send that message.”

“People need help. People need hope. People need to see that we are willing to do the right thing, and pass big solutions.”

“So I hope all my colleagues will join me in supporting my amendment. I want to see this passed and sent to the President’s desk as part of this response, and I’m not going to stop fighting until that happens.”