The City Council voted unanimously today to use $50 million of Los Angeles' federal CARES Act funding to provide people with two weeks pay if they are infected with COVID-19 and cannot work.
“Beating the COVID-19 pandemic means keeping folks at home when they're sick,'' Councilman David Ryu said. “But too many Los Angeles workers are being forced to decide between their paycheck and public health. We need a program that ensures all workers are able to stay home, no matter what work they do, their immigration status or their criminal record.''
The proposed program, similar to one in place in San Francisco, would ensure that all workers, regardless of their employment or immigration status, are able to self-quarantine if they get sick.
The council's action also requested that city staff on the Economic and Workforce Development Department and other city departments to report on the creation of a right-to-recover program and paycheck assistance program.
Ryu and Council President Nury Martinez introduced the proposal in late July to assist low-income people who have tested positive for the coronavirus and cannot work. Martinez said she wants to focus particularly on getting assistance to low-income people infected by the virus who were left out of the first round of the CARES Act.
“Los Angeles is home to a large number of low-wage and undocumented workers who were denied access to CARES Act benefits and unemployment insurance assistance,'' Martinez stated in her motion. “Low-wage workers, such as housekeepers, gardeners, laborers, bus drivers and gig workers, worked long hours to make ends meet prior to the pandemic and continue to do so as the number of positive cases increase every day.''
The council president said people in poorer areas of Los Angeles are infected and dying at twice the rate of wealthier neighborhoods.
Martinez said high-paying job sectors provide telecommuting, paid sick leave and health insurance, but low-wage workers have limited or no access to those benefits.
In April, the City Council enacted a paid leave policy that provided additional paid time during the pandemic for recovery, childcare and other needs. However, even with that expansion, some low-wage workers still do not have the access to paid time off, Martinez said.
“When a low-wage worker tests positive for COVID-19, they are faced with the possibility of losing their job, housing and ability to provide for their family,'' the motion stated.