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Fact Sheet: Paid Leave Provisions in Recent Federal COVID-19 Response Legislation

By: Bethany Cole, Research Assistant for Health Policy
Published: April 2020

This fact sheet summarizes the temporary paid leave provisions enacted by Congress in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes: background on paid leave in the U.S., provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and provisions in the CARES Act, followed by a brief discussion of the impact on workers and their families.

During this time of crisis, millions of Americans will need to take time off to care for a child while schools are closed or care for a sick or self-quarantining loved one or to recover from their own illness or self-quarantine. The United States is the only industrialized country without a national program guaranteeing workers some form of paid sick or paid family leave. Before the COVID-19 legislation, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was the only national leave policy in place, and only guaranteed unpaid leave to a slim majority of workers, with 40% of workers ineligible for benefits. Unpaid leave is not accessible for many workers, especially low-income workers, who cannot afford to lose income if they get sick or need to take care of a loved one.