FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Rick Fuentes
January 11, 2021 (St. Paul) – Minnesota nurses are excited to support a Minnesota House bill that would provide emergency paid leave for essential workers that they currently don’t receive. The Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act, or HF41, chief authored by Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope), would ensure that the frontline and essential workers during this pandemic are able to quarantine, care for a loved one with COVID, or care for a child who is distance learning without financial burden.
Minnesota nurses and many other essential workers were left out of other COVID-related leave bills passed by the federal government earlier in the pandemic. The Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act would ensure they are able to quarantine safely and responsibly without dipping into their sick time, Paid Time Off (PTO) benefits, retirement savings, or going without pay entirely.
“My family has been devastated during this pandemic,” said Nichole Whitney, a nurse at District One hospital in Faribault. “My three-year-old son was diagnosed with COVID. I had to stay home to care for him as well as not bring COVID to my hospital. But because it wasn’t me who was positive, we used up all my time off. We had to dip into savings to pay the bills.”
Currently, nurses only qualify for Workers’ Compensation if they acquired the virus at work and test positive. Nurses are frequently exposed to the virus, and it is critical that they quarantine when exhibiting any symptoms. To ensure the safety and health of patients and the community, there are numerous instances in which they quarantine without testing positive. In these circumstances, nurses are expected to use their own accrued PTO or sick time. In some cases, nurses have already spent down this benefit time and are forced to go without pay.
“We’ve seen our own healthcare workers, our frontline in this pandemic, punished for being safe,” said MNA President Mary C. Turner, a Registered Nurse at North Memorial in Robbinsdale. “Nurses aren’t covered if they wait for a COVID test or wait for the results to come back, or if they’re negative, but their family member is sick.”
The bill would provide 100 hours of emergency paid leave to workers considered to be full time by their employer. This leave would cover nurses who have either been instructed to quarantine or exhibit symptoms while waiting for test results but later test negative. It would also cover caring for a family member that contracts COVID-19 or for childcare if their school is closed.
“Emergency leave for essential workers is necessary to ensure all community members are able to protect their own health and families, pay their bills, and slow down the spread of COVID-19, without the risk of losing their jobs,” said Rep. Frazier. “We need to take care of our essential workers like they take care of us.”
“Nurses count on our sick time,” Whitney said. “When a child is sick, they want their Mom. When a patient is sick, they rely on a nurse. We can’t let this pandemic keep taking a toll on nurses, our families, or our patients.”