SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – COVID-19 sick pay for California workers ended on Sep. 30 – at a time when data from the state health department shows there were 5,757 cases per 100,000 people. As of Jan. 9, there were 20,817 cases per 100,000 people. That jump is prompting a renewed push for California’s COVID-19 sick pay to return.

COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave previously required employers with 26 or more employees to provide up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. The cost of the extra paid sick leave was covered by the employer.

The governor suggested on Tuesday that the supplemental COVID-19 sick pay could come back,  that discussions about supplemental leave were underway – but a group of essential workers came together Thursday to make sure that happens.

“It’s insane that all my sick time is gone just for a quarantine that was required,” said Rheannon Ramos, a grocery store worker from San Bernadino County. She was the first speaker in a series of people pushing for a return of the COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

“We used to be heroes for the state, and we used to be called heroes and thanked – and there were cartoons of us with capes on our backs – and now we’re forced to choose between our bills being paid and the state of public health,” added Ramos. “As long as California is following the CDC guidelines then quarantined workers should be paid for the days we are forced to stay out of work.”

Elementary school teacher and president of the California Teachers Association, E. Toby Boyd, said providing COVID-19 sick leave would allow parents of students who have contracted COVID-19 to stay home with them – and not risk further spread in the classroom.

“Omicron is wreaking havoc on our schools,” said Boyd. “It’s worsening the staffing shortage because many of our colleagues and school staff have been affected.”

Georgette Bradford, an ultrasound technician at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, said the previous COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave encouraged health care staff to get vaccinated. Staff members are now forced to choose between getting paid or protecting their communities.

“I myself used COVID pandemic supplemental pay leave to recover from my vaccination from both doses,” revealed Bradford.

The group’s comments ended with Art Polaski of the California Labor Federation, who called for the supplemental paid leave to be reinstated by the end of the month.

“Essential workers continue to be exposed. They feel expendable, and we are failing them.”