By Alison Hancock /

House COVID Relief Bill Includes 15 Weeks of Paid Leave for Federal Parents, Caregivers

Leave would be available to care for elderly family members and kids whose schools are closed or virtual, as well as for those who are sick themselves or forced to quarantine.

House Democrats’ latest COVID relief bill would dramatically expand federal employees’ access to paid leave needed in connection with the pandemic, offering up to 600 hours of time off for those who are unable to work due to COVID-19 symptoms or self-isolation orders and those who need to care for a child whose school or daycare center is closed or relying on virtual learning. 

The 600 hours, or 15 weeks, of paid leave would also apply to federal employees and postal workers who are caring for an individual with COVID-19 symptoms or caring for a family member 65 or older if their normal care provider is unavailable due to the pandemic. The leave could be used through Sept. 30 and would apply after other sick leave has been used up, according to summary of the House Oversight and Reform Committee's portion released Tuesday.  

Last year, federal employees were eligible for up to two weeks of sick leave at full pay if they were unable to work due to a self-isolation order from the government or their health care provider, or if they were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. This was capped at $1,400 per week.

Federal employees also had access to a 10-week bank of partial paid leave if they were unable to work due to the need to care for a child whose school or child care provider was closed—or engaged in virtual learning—due to the pandemic, or if they had to care for a dependent with COVID-19 symptoms. These provisions were not renewed as part of the omnibus spending bill signed into law in December 2020.

The newest relief bill would renew and dramatically expand the leave offerings even above President Biden’s initial COVID relief proposal, which would have continued the provision for two weeks of full paid leave and expanded the partial leave bank from 10 weeks to 14 weeks. The committee is slated to mark up and advance the relief bill on Friday.

The House bill would also grant federal employees paid leave to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine or to recover from symptoms related to their being vaccinated. These benefits would also be available until Sept. 30.

“As our nation continues to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Congress must take bold, urgent action to confront this crisis and show the American people that help is on the way,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the oversight committee. “This week, the Oversight and Reform Committee will consider legislation to provide direct funding to state and local governments striving to deliver critical services to struggling families and save the jobs of essential public servants like teachers, firefighters and other first responders during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Republicans are expected to oppose the leave measure, as well as another provision providing aid to state and local governments.

“It’s also unfair to the American people to provide an additional 600 hours of paid leave on top of regular paid leave to federal workers who already enjoy many work perks,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the committee’s ranking member. “The Democrats’ priorities are incredibly distorted given that many small businesses are struggling and millions of Americans are unemployed.”