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Ohio Democrats Say Coronavirus Underlines Need For Paid Leave Policies

State Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland) introduces the "Equal Pay Act" in the Ohio House. [Ohio House]
State Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland) introduces the "Equal Pay Act" in the Ohio House.

As concerns about coronavirus grow, and cold and flu season continues, Gov. Mike DeWine and state health officials are urging people to stay home if they are showing any signs of being sick. But Democratic lawmakers say staying home from work isn't an option for many Ohioans. 

State Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) says many Ohio workers cannot take a day off because that means missing pay, which can make or break their household budgets. Neither Ohio nor the federal government requires employers to offer paid family and medical leave.

Boyd says concerns around the coronavirus highlight what she calls a stressful decision between staying at home or getting paid.

"They'll risk coming to work because they can't afford not to. And they will spread the virus further," Boyd says.

Boyd and state Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) are sponsoring HB91, a bill that creates a paid family and medical leave insurance fund for all employees. The fund is driven by workers who opt in and pay premiums.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71% of private industry workers had access to paid sick leave in 2018, but that number dropped to 31% when looking at the lowest-paid workers.

The bill has received two hearings in the House, but the legislation has no Republican co-sponsors.

Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers were recently briefed on a very different family leave proposal from the Trump administration.