WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley today issued the following statement in response to final congressional passage of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act:
“The administration’s coronavirus response bill will provide desperately needed relief to hundreds of millions of Americans who have struggled to care for themselves and their families during this pandemic.
“The final bill passed by the House and Senate includes measures specifically targeted to the federal government workers who have continued their service to America despite the enormous challenges and personal risks posed by the coronavirus.
“The legislation provides federal employees with 15 weeks of emergency paid leave through September to address various issues related to the coronavirus, including exposure to COVID-19, negative reaction to the vaccine, or caring for school-age children or dependent family members whose daily routines have been disrupted by the pandemic.
“Federal employees didn’t receive the 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave that Congress provided to other employees last year, so they have exhausted their sick and annual leave much sooner than other workers. This additional leave will give federal employees more time to safely recover from COVID-19 or respond to related family care issues without being forced to take unpaid leave or return to work before it’s safe to do so.
“In addition, the legislation includes an automatic presumption of workplace illness for front-line federal employees who contract COVID-19 through the performance of their duties. This change will allow employees or their survivors to receive workers’ compensation benefits under the Federal Employee Compensation Act without facing denials or lengthy appeals.
“AFGE also applauds the extension of $300 weekly unemployment benefits and the next round of economic stimulus payments to ease the economic suffering of working Americans and their families.
“On behalf of the 700,000 government workers AFGE represents, I applaud House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for swiftly shepherding the bill through Congress and look forward to President Biden signing this legislation into law soon.”