HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Monday, April 19, 2021

Paid Leave and Unemployment Insurance during the Pandemic and Beyond

Sharon Terman, Michele Evermore, Paid Leave and Unemployment Insurance during the Pandemic and BeyondCOVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future. Boston: Public Health Law Watch

The pandemic has exposed and heightened the need for policies that enable all workers to stay afloat financially and care for themselves and their families during times of crisis. Two vital such policies are job-protected paid leave and unemployment benefits. Supports for working families and individuals who lost work during the pandemic have been a lifeline for many, but have not fulfilled their promise for millions more, intensifying pre-existing inequities and causing lasting harm to already marginalized communities. Despite evidence that paid sick leave saves lives, Congress let COVID-19 emergency paid leave protections expire in December 2020, in the midst of a worsening public health crisis and an unprecedented number of women leaving the workforce, often to provide care. Similarly, the extra $600 unemployment benefit expired at the end of July 2020 with only a temporary executive memorandum to follow, that added $300 to regular benefits for about six weeks. Other extensions, including extra weeks of benefits available for workers eligible for regular unemployment, and the supplemental program available for people who do not qualify for regular unemployment, lapsed on December 26, 2020. While an extension of all of these provisions was signed by the president on December 27, that delay has meant weeks-long lapses as states retool outdated systems to continue to pay benefits. This Chapter offers lessons learned and policy recommendations that center the needs of low-wage workers, women, and people of color by ensuring robust job and income protections to build a path to an equitable recovery.

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