Bill could expand paid leave for federal workers amid the pandemic

The draft provides up to 15 extra weeks of paid leave for virus-related reasons.

Proposed legislation being considered by a House committee on Friday could expand paid leave for federal workers who have exhausted their allotment amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure would set up an Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund of $570 million for all civilian federal employees, including U.S. Postal Service workers, to access up to 600 hours in additional paid leave for a slew of pandemic-related reasons.

Reasons include those who are being asked to quarantine as a result of COVID-19 exposure, are taking care of a family member who has been asked to self-quarantine or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, the supplemental paid leave can be accessed by workers taking care of a child whose school or day care has been closed or gone virtual, is receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or is recovering from vaccine-related side effects.

For an average 40-hour work week, this would mean eligible employees could access up to an additional 15 weeks of paid leave during the health crisis.

The additional paid leave would expire on Sept. 30, according to the current draft.

The measure is being considered by the House Oversight and Reform Committee as part of broader coronavirus relief legislation currently being assembled by lawmakers as part of budget reconciliation.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in her opening remarks at the committee markup meeting Friday that the legislation expands emergency leave for federal and postal workers, "so that they don’t have to choose between their jobs or caring for loved ones who get infected with coronavirus."

Democrats hope to get a final bill, including all COVID-19 relief measures, to President Joe Biden before federal jobless benefits expire on March 14.