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Cuomo signs COVID-19 paid leave bill into law

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Any New York employee who is ordered to stay home because of exposure to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will not have to worry about losing wages because of it.

That's what Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided Wednesday night when he signed into law a bill pushed through both the senate and the Assembly in a single day guaranteeing some type of sick leave for anyone subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine.

"No one should have to make the impossible choice between losing their job or providing for their family and going to work, especially during this pandemic," Cuomo said, in a statement. "We seek to build upon this effort with guaranteed sick leave for all in this year's budget.  In New York, we stand with our workers, in sickness and in health."

The law, according to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, would make all private and public sector employees eligible for sick leave and wage replacement during any order of quarantine.

Employees who work for companies with 10 or fewer employees that have a net income of less than $1 million would receive unpaid sick leave, but immediately become eligible for paid family leave and temporary disability insurance benefits through the state. 

Those working for the same-size companies with a net income beyond $1 million would see the same benefits of those working for companies with just under 100 employees: Five days of paid sick leave, followed by eligibility for paid family leave and temporary disability insurance benefits.

Larger company employees, and those working in the public sector, would be eligible for at least 14 days of paid sick leave.

Paid family leave benefits, supplemented by the temporary disability insurance, is designed to help make weekly wages whole for anyone making less than $150,000 annually, Heastie said. It also eliminates the waiting period for these benefits, as well as for unemployment insurance for claims related to the coronavirus.

The law also covers children who are dependent on an employee if they are ordered to quarantine because of the virus.

"No one should have to worry about losing their job should they come down with or are quarantined because of the coronavirus," Heastie said, in a release. "The legislation we passed will help save lives by ensuring people that are sick stay home, and it will allow people to recover without having to worry about losing their livelihood."

The senate version of the bill was introduced by Jessica Ramos, a Queens Democrat, who helped move the bill quickly through committee and straight onto the senate floor, where it passed 50-6, with aye votes locally by Sens. Alessandra Biaggi and Gustavo Rivera.

The Assembly version was introduced by Queens Democrat Catherine Nolan, and passed the lower chamber, with support locally by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.

"In a time of a global pandemic and social distancing, New Yorkers need to be able to count on the fact that if they get sick or quarantined, they will have a job to come back to," said Soundview Democrat Marcos Crespo, who chairs the Assembly's labor committee, in a release. "This bill will give them that peace of mind. We will continue fighting for workers across the state and ensure that they have the resources to come through this crisis."

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