BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Since September, whether you were sick with the coronavirus or exposed to COVID-19, employees had to rely on paid time off.
Now with a vote in the State Capitol, that's changed.
“Providing workers with COVID-19 paid sick leave is a tool for keeping schools and businesses open,” said Anniesha Williams, an Essential Worker.
The omicron variant caused a surge in COVID cases across the state of California with over 35,000 people testing positive daily.
Now, the Senate approved relief for workers that have to take time off after being sick with the virus.
Williams is just one of many that couldn’t work during this time.
“It’s personal for me because I had to take off of work without pay because my kids school contracted a positive COVID-19 outbreak.”
Williams said no one should have to choose between their health and safety and paying rent.
Security Officer Robert Branch agreed adding paying bills was the last thing he wanted to think about while being sick.
“I’m lying on my bed and I’m sweating profusely. I have loss of taste, loss of smell, and I’m sneezing and coughing, needing to take care of myself and it was just how in the world am I going to get through this.”
Originally, employees in California earned supplemental COVID sick leave in January 2021 but it expired in September.
Though the legislation passed Monday, workers can be compensated at their regular pay rates earning $511 a day or $5,010 total.
Kim Samuel with Kaiser Permanente said since the pandemic is not ending anytime soon, this pay is necessary. “Now that COVID has entered our universe and is in here with us. We have to deal with it, we need to make sure that the COVID pay is mandated in addition to our normal sick pay.”
The law would retroactively date back to January 1 for companies with more than 26 employees.
The bill now heads to the governor’s office. Once signed, it will take effect in 10 days.
Branch said he's grateful lawmakers are helping people with situations like his. “The governor and elected officials are concerned about essential workers such as myself, and are willing to step up to the plate to say, ‘let’s serve those who serve others.’”