By Zachary Klosko
Capital News Service
RICHMOND,Va. — After four years and multiple bills, Del. Elizabeth Guzmán, D-Woodbridge, is on the cusp of being able to secure paid leave for some Virginia workers.
“It feels really good,” Guzmán said. “I think about the amount of people who are going to get this benefit and how they will have peace of mind to stay home and take care of family members if they are unwell.”
The Virginia Senate passed an amended version of the delegate’s legislation that mandates paid sick leave for some in-home health care workers. The substitute bill heads back to the House, where the initial bill passed on a 54-46 vote. Guzmán said she will encourage delegates to approve the substitute and send the amended bill to Gov. Ralph Northam.
Guzmán took to Twitter after the Senate’s 21-18 vote to express her excitement.
“Thank you!!” Guzmán wrote on Twitter. “We did it!!”
House Bill 2137 originally offered the benefit to many essential workers, including first responders, retail workers, cleaning workers, teachers, jail and prison employees and transportation workers.
The bill advanced from the House with an amendment for small businesses; it did not apply to retail businesses with fewer than 25 employees. The Senate later amended the bill to only offer the benefit to in-home health care workers who serve patients with Medicaid coverage.
The substitute still requires employers to set aside one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees must work at least an average of 20 hours per week or 90 hours per month to qualify. Once covered, workers will be allowed paid leave if they are sick or if they need to care for a sick family member. Unused sick leave can be carried over to the year after it was earned.
The amended bill will protect 25,000 workers, according to a press release by Guzmán.
Guzmán says her work is not done.
“I will continue to fight as lieutenant governor, I will continue to fight as a delegate,” Guzmán said. “Whichever role I’m in, I will continue to fight.”
Guzmán is running for lieutenant governor. Among others in the race, she is facing Del. Hala Ayala, another Democrat from Prince William County. If successful, Ayala or Guzmán would become the first Latina to serve in the role.
If signed into law, those covered will begin to accrue paid leave hours on July 1.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.