FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Rick Fuentes
January 26, 2021 (St. Paul) – Minnesota nurses explained to legislators that, like other essential workers, they’ve lost thousands of dollars in pay and benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they’re asking lawmakers to support HF41, the Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act, which will make it right.
Many essential workers, including nurses, were either exempted from receiving federal COVID leave covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) or their employers were not subject to FFCRA due to their size.
“There have been three occurrences when I have had to miss work due to daycare closure because of a COVID exposure or waiting for a COVID test,” said Ashley Haverland, a Registered Nurse at Perham Health Clinic. “How will I provide care for (my son) when I only have 5 hours of banked paid time off? How will I continue to pay my bills,” she testified to legislators of the Minnesota House Labor Committee.
“Essential workers keeping our society running during the pandemic have been left behind and it’s time to make it right,” said Mary C. Turner, Registered Nurse at North Memorial Healthcare and president of Minnesota Nurses Association.
Nurses have reported going unpaid or draining their personal leave when quarantining while waiting to be tested or waiting to receive test results, while caring for a coronavirus-positive family member and while caring for their young children due to a closed daycare facility or school. Even more alarming were reports of nurses who went back to work before the recommended quarantine period ended because they could not afford to work without pay.
“Nurses are having to quarantine and miss time at work, which is costing them days and weeks of pay,” said MNA President Mary C. Turner, an ICU nurse at North Memorial. “Nurses lose pay when they are exposed to a COVID-positive patient, and they cannot prove it happened at work. They lose pay when they have had to wait for a COVID test. They lose pay when they have to wait for test results, which can take as long as a week,” Turner told legislators at the committee hearing.
MNA nurses are supporting HF41, chief authored by Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL- New Hope) and SF331, introduced by Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL- Saint Paul). These two bills would provide up to 100 hours of Emergency Leave for full-time essential workers during the peacetime emergency. Part-time workers would be eligible for up to 1.25x their average two weeks’ pay. They are only eligible for missed time at work that is not covered by any other federal or state COVID benefits.
Governor Tim Walz announced today that his budget includes emergency COVID paid leave for health care providers. Nurses are grateful for the inclusion and look forward to working with the administration and legislature to strengthen and expand this leave.
“Nurses appreciate the efforts to make it right with nurses,” Turner said. “Let’s make sure all of our essential workers don’t lose their lives or their livelihoods because we are on the frontlines.”