ALBANY – The State Senate and Assembly has overwhelmingly passed an emergency paid sick leave bill, giving mandatory sick leave for many employees with COVID-19 or under government-order quarantine related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Debate on two separate coronavirus bills stretched through most of Wednesday afternoon, though both ended up passing overwhelmingly. The paid leave measure guarantees at least two weeks of paid sick leave and job protection during a quarantine order for all public employees, as well as private workers whose business employs 100 or more people. The protections for smaller businesses vary by size.
The bill had also originally included permanent paid sick leave requirements for all businesses – a proposal first put forth by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in his annual State of the State address in January. Lawmakers ultimately removed those provisions from the legislation amid backlash from Republicans, who noted that the requirements were unrelated to COVID-19 response and feared that they would hurt already-struggling small businesses.
The bill passed with bipartisan support, 50-6 in the Senate and 131-3 in the Assembly.
Sen. George Borrello (R-Irving) was one of six who voted against the bill. In a statement sent out Thursday morning, Borrello said he wanted the legislation to distinguished between full- and part-time employees, because, as written, it creates an even larger financial burden on struggling businesses.
“As COVID-19 continues to spread across New York, threatening the health of residents everywhere, it is also wrecking havoc with the livelihoods of untold numbers of small business owners and those they employ. The loss of income these businesses are experiencing will force some to shut their doors quickly while others may survive a bit longer. But, without a doubt, the ill-advised legislation authored by Senate Democrats and passed yesterday will amplify the financial stress these small business owners are experiencing during this unprecedented crisis,” Borello said.
He also pointed out that the legislation was given to legislators only minutes before they were called to vote and there was no time for lengthy debate.
“While there is some consolation that last-minute changes to the bill narrowed its scope and removed some of the most damaging provisions, nonetheless, there was a better option,” Borrello added. “We introduced legislation that would have supported workers under mandatory or precautionary quarantine by making them eligible for compensation through the paid family leave program. This legislation was not considered, nor were any measures that would have sought to help both employers and employees cope with the hardships of this crisis.
Assemblyman Andrew Goodell (R-Ellicott) voted in favor of the measure.
The second coronavirus bill approved Wednesday, which concerned requirements for political candidates, built upon Cuomo’s Saturday executive order suspending petitioning after Tuesday, March 17, and slashing the number of signatures mandated to get a person’s name on the ballot. Under the new bill, candidates will be able to file their petitions immediately, with a deadline of Friday, March 20. Previously, the window to submit signatures would have been March 30 to April 2.
The Senate passed the measure 56-0; the Assembly, 118-12. Cuomo signed both bills Wednesday evening.