(WXYZ) — President Trump signed the latest Coronavirus aid package into law Wednesday evening, freeing up funds — via tax credits — to help American workers access sick leave if they've been impacted by COVID-19.
About a quarter of U.S. workers are currently ineligible for paid sick leave — a stat that came into sharp relief this month as the U.S. began to grapple with the realities of COVID-19, asking sick employees to stay home, and self-quarantine if they felt ill.
The bill aims to give sick leave to workers who do not have it, and extend it for those with only a few days.
Those affected by Coronavirus can get up to two weeks of paid sick leave, at 100 percent of their salary, and, if they have a child home from a shuttered school, they can get up to three months of family and medical leave at 67 percent of their salary.
The bipartisan bill has some loopholes. Small businesses with under 50 employees and health care providers, for example, can be exempt from giving out the sick paid sick leave if they can prove that it would be a burden. Additionally, the bill does not address companies with over 500 employees. While many of the bigger businsses do have paid sick leave, they don't necessarily give out 14 days — what is being advised for a COVID-19 quarantine.
Still, those following the public health and economic crisis consider the bill a step in the right direction.
"Whatever passed is good, because there is so much that we need to do, if it’s only 10 percent of the way there, that’s good let’s keep going 20, 30, all the way to 100 percent," said Gbenga Ajilore a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, who has been following the legislative debates.
This is the second COVID-19 bill passed by the federal government. The first freed up funds for testing, and waiving testing fees. There are also talks about a third bill — a trillion dollar package that would offer payments to small businesses, loans for certain sectors like the airlines industry, and a stimulus package for workers.
The direction of this third bill is where Ajilore is focusing his attention now.
"If you’re going to spend money, let’s not spend it on these industries," he said, referring to conversations regarding bailouts for various travel industries. "Let’s spend it on small businesses. What can we do for small businesses, the lifeblood of different economies?"
The econonmist also points out that while direct paychecks to Americans — something that is being debated with the third bill — could be beneficial, the conversation also needs to deal with larger systems.
"For workers, you have to stay home and not work, but if you don’t have paid leave then it’s like, I still have my mortgage to pay. Part of that’s giving people money to do that, but also, something that we’re seeing now is making sure people don’t get evicted, working towards cutting debt or postponing payments," he said.
In Detroit, 36th District Court announced last week that it would stop processing evictions. Other forms of local debt relief, have cropped up as well. Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree announced this week that he would halt tax foreclosures in the wake of the health crisis, and its economic ramifications.
This mindset — the need to think ahead as the timeline for quarantine remains undetermined — was reiterated by Dr. Adam Rosh, an emergency medicine physician with a background in microbiology and public health.
"This is not two-weeks, this is not going to last four weeks, this is going to last months and months," said Rosh. "And so any assistance that’s going to be provided for two-weeks, fine that may be a start, right? But we need a comprehensive strategy of how we’re going to manage millions of citizens, tens of hundreds of millions of citizens for the next one month, three months, and even six months."
In order to access the funds for the bill that passed yesterday, one needs to be affected by Coronavirus, but does not need to have tested positive. A distinction that experts say was likely made in order to stop the rush of people to doctor’s offices to get tested.
On Wednesday, after Michigan had its first COVID-19 related death Beaumont Health held a press conference where testing-inundation was discussed.
"Testing facilities are being overrun," said Nick Gilplin, Beaumont Health’s Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology.
"I want to be clear that not everyone with COVID-19 symptoms, which includes fever, cough and shortness of breath, needs to be tested, " he continued, explaining that now that COVID-19 is in our community the need to confirm a test is less critical.
"A lot of patients who are experiencing mild symptoms who don’t have underlying medical conditions, who are young and otherwise healthy, frankly do not need to be tested, because it will not change how we manage you from a healthcare perspective," he said.
Currently in Michigan, 336 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been three confirmed deaths.