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Governor Newsom: Reinstating COVID-19 sick pay a priority

Previous supplemental COVID-19 sick leave laws expired in September before the omicron surge.

CALIFORNIA, USA — Governor Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers are still hammering out details of a new emergency paid sick leave law that would use funds from the state’s budget surplus.

During the rollout of Governor Newsom's budget blueprint on Monday, he said it’s a top priority, but for some Californians, the help is already overdue.

Abraham Arevalo, a father and husband out of Stockton, has lost out out on four days of pay and waited hours in a test-site line Monday, hoping for a negative test result.

“I hope the virus go away, because I need to go back to work to feed the family," Arevalo told ABC10.

Arevalo is a welder. He commutes to the Bay Area for his job, which he can't do remotely. 

Like many Californians, Arevalo does not have paid sick leave from his employer.

"Right now, (taking time off is) volunteered," he said in air quotes. "We don’t have pay for days off for COVID right now.”

RELATED: Combatting COVID: 4 things California did this week

Paid Sick Leave for 2022?

The state’s supplemental COVID-19 paid leave laws that would have helped Arevalo stay home without worrying about missing paychecks expired in September. Similar federal laws also expired at the end of 2020.

“There’s a gaping hole in the safety net right now," said Steve Smith, spokesman for the California Labor Federation.

Steve Smith, spokesman for the California Labor Federation, says the lack of paid leave exacerbates the spread of COVID-19 and labor shortages when families are forced to choose between getting paid or staying home and getting better.

“That’s not a the decision that any worker should be forced to make. That’s why reinstating emergency paid sick leaved is so vital," Smith said.

In Monday’s rollout of the Governor’s budget, paid sick leave was mentioned, but details are still being hammered out.

RELATED: Here are 5 major takeaways from Gov. Gavin Newsom's budget proposal

 "This is a top priority for me: sick leave," Newsom said. "I know it's a deeply-held top priority of the legislative leaders and of all of those who would benefit from it, particularly our front-line employees."

Smith says it’s a good sign both the governor and legislature are making emergency paid leave a priority and hopes a new program can start in a few weeks. 

But for people like Arevalo, the help is needed now.

As far as what people can do now, the California Labor Federation says, if you can prove you contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, you could get paid under temporary CAL/OSHA regulations.

If employers are refusing to give paid sick days that workers have earned, file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s office.

The California Labor Federation is also calling on people to get in touch with their state lawmakers and urge them to act. 

WATCH ALSO: 

Emergency COVID-19 Paid Leave laws expired | 'There's a gaping hole in the safety net'

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