I would like to thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Department of Labor's online dialogue, "Opening America's Workplaces Again" and share the perspective of the cystic fibrosis (CF) community as we look toward reopening our workplaces and economy. It is important for us to remember that there are many Americans who are vulnerable, or care for someone who is vulnerable to COVID-19. We ask the Department of Labor to consider all individuals determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be at high risk for adverse complications from COVID-19 as you draft plans to reopen workplaces. Specifically, we urge you to work with Congress to expand eligibility for paid family and medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act so those at highest risk can remain sheltered for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to ensure the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones.
Currently, paid family medical leave provides support only to those with children or adults with disabilities whose local school district or usual care providers are closed due to the pandemic. This policy does not go far enough. The hardworking Americans who have been advised by the CDC to remain home are only eligible for up to two weeks of financial support and job protection of expanded paid sick leave. This places individuals who live with significant health conditions such as cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes a buildup of thick sticky mucus in the lungs resulting in persistent lung infections, and their loved ones with a devastating choice: place their health or their loved one's health at risk by going back to work or lose their jobs altogether.
These very startling statistics demonstrate why individuals with serious health conditions and other risk factors, as identified by the CDC, and working members of their household should receive job protection and financial support through paid family leave. I ask that you work with Congress to make the following changes to the paid family and medical leave program created in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:
• Expand eligibility for paid family leave to include anyone who, because of a serious health condition that places them at grave risk from COVID-19, has been advised by their physician to remain home
• Expand eligibility for paid family leave or additional financial support to include anyone who has been advised by a physician to remain home because there is a member of their household who has a serious health condition that places them at grave risk from COVID-19
• Remove the arbitrary time limit on paid leave to ensure that these individuals can remain home as long as the COVID-19 pandemic poses a risk to their health and well-being
• Ensure this program applies to employers of all sizes
As our country looks toward reopening, we believe it is crucial to provide some certainty for Americans who are afraid that their health, or the health of a loved one, will be placed at risk should they be asked to return to work. We appreciate there are currently Federal efforts underway to support people who have lost their jobs due to being at increased risk of complications, but we suggest going further for those still employed To that end, we urge you to work with Congress and consider an expansion of paid family medical leave in order to provide certainty and support for all members of these vulnerable populations.
Senior Vice President
Chief Policy & Advocacy Officer
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation