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Politics & Government

Pittsburgh City Council Votes To Extend COVID Sick-Leave Benefit

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh City Councilor Bobby Wilson pushed to renew the city's COVID sick-leave benefit for at least another year.

Pittsburgh City Council approved legislation Tuesday morning to extend paid citywide COVID sick leave benefits for another year. That means that, at least until next summer, city employers with 50 or more workers must offer workers 80 hours of paid sick leave if they have to quarantine for the virus, or to care for family members with the disease.

The vote was 7 to 1, with Councilor Corey O'Connor absent, and Councilor Anthony Coghill voting no.

The legislation renews benefits the city established last year, but which were originally set to expire when either the state or the city ended their pandemic declarations of emergency. The state's declaration expired earlier this summer, putting the city's COVID benefits at risk.

In response, Councilor Bobby Wilson proposed a measure that would have kept the benfits in place until 90 percent of Pennsylvanians were vaccinated. But business groups objected that the threshold was far too high, and would leave the benefits in place indefinitely. Wilson says he drafted the one-year limit in response.

“Ninety percent is a goal we should get to, but it is a lofty goal,” he said. “I reached out to the business community and heard their concerns of having this as more of a temporary measure. This one-year extension would give health professionals [time] to evaluate the situation.”

Council can extend the benefits past the one-year deadline if it votes to do so.

Melissa Bova, vice president of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, said the change was a step in the right direction. But she said that federal tax credits, which have helped employers bear the costs of additional sick leave, will expire long before the city's bill does.

“We want people to stay home if they’re sick, but … the federal tax credits end on September 30,” Bova said. “Those credits help us, and this mandate extends for a year.”

“The focus needs to be on vaccinations,” Bova added. “We see the spread of this virus so our focus as an industry is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Correction: This story was updated at 4:35 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27, 2021 to correct Council's vote count.