MassLive – Putting them at odds with Gov. Charlie Baker and a municipal trade group, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka intend to preserve eligibility for municipal employees in an emergency COVID-19 sick leave program that the Legislature is working to finalize and return to the governor’s desk.

Baker has proposed several amendments to the sick leave program that the Legislature tried to include in a larger unemployment tax relief package, most of which the governor signed off on last Friday.

Many of the recommended changes remain under review, but Democratic legislative leadership said late Wednesday they do not intend to go along with Baker’s proposal to change employee eligibility for the leave program.

One of the governor’s amendments would exclude municipal workers, including teachers, public works employees, police and others. The administration said the change would align COVID-19 sick leave with the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program, which allows cities and towns to opt in instead.

Democratic leaders on Beacon Hill told the State House News Service that municipal employees deserve to take advantage of the program, which would provide up to five days of paid time off for full-time employees who are sick with COVID-19, isolating, taking time off to get vaccinated or caring for a family member ill with the virus.

”Our municipal employees, including our teachers and first responders, have been essential to the state’s COVID-19 response. We were disappointed to see Governor Baker’s amendment to exclude them from paid sick leave benefits,” Mariano and Spilka told the News Service in response to questions about the program.

Massachusetts Employers Still Face Unemployment Tax Increases
Lawmakers Seek to Boost Post-Pandemic Public Education Funding