A recent report prepared by Senator Sue Crawford reviews over 40 studies on the positive health and economic impacts of paid sick leave. Public health experts across the nation know that paid sick leave is a critical strategy to control the spread of COVID-19 yet national data estimates that almost 20 million Americans go to work sick due to lack of access to paid sick leave. Data from the Department of Labor shows that 78% of employees report having access to paid sick leave nationally. That number is even worse for workers in Nebraska.  The most recent analysis by state (2010) shows that only 58% of Nebraskans reported access to paid sick leave.  

How can Nebraskans follow CDC and health expert recommendations to stay home when sick if almost half don’t have access to paid sick leave? The surge in COVID-19 cases in Nebraskan meatpacking plants and surrounding communities is a fatal demonstration of how critical it is for Nebraskans to not only stay home when they are sick but have access to health benefits that allow them to stay home without financial or job worries.  

Senator Crawford said, "research in health studies and economics studies provide strong evidence that paid sick leave benefits not only the person taking leave, but others in the workplace, businesses and the broader community."  The benefits of paid sick leave can’t be overstated. Nebraskans should not have to choose their job over their health in the middle of a pandemic, or ever.  

Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that among those suffering the most are those who typically get paid the least: the “essential workers” who tend to the sick, care for our elders, grow our food and stock our supermarket shelves. These mostly Black and Latinx workers, also disproportionately women, already live in a state of economic precariousness.  

They have been asked to literally risk their lives for their paychecks. In this way, the pandemic has further exposed and deepened our nation’s fault lines of racial and gender inequality. Paid sick leave is a civil rights issue and it’s past time that Nebraskans have access to this critical benefit.  

You can find the full report on the positive impacts of paid sick leave online: https://bit.ly/PaidLeaveNE