March 18, 2020
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) made the following statement after supporting the Johnson amendment, which would have provided paid sick and family leave for employees of small businesses.
“It is essential we provide economic relief for individuals and businesses suffering from the impact of the coronavirus, including by providing paid sick and family leave to employees of small businesses. The proposal I supported would have provided this relief without imposing any cost on small businesses, which are struggling to make ends meet under the circumstances. The Johnson amendment would have provided this assistance for up to 14 weeks through an emergency unemployment program already administered through the state government and reimbursed by the federal government. In doing so, it would have protected small businesses from having to find the cash to front sick leave.”
“The House passed bill imposed a mandate on small businesses to front employee pay for sick and family leave, making them wait for weeks or months to be reimbursed by the federal government. As a former small business owner, I know how tight margins are. These small businesses do not have weeks or months to survive – they’re barely hanging on right now. The House proposal, while having good intentions, could actually make economic conditions for small businesses even worse than they already are, forcing them to close or lay off their workers. Because of this, I opposed the provision.”
Inhofe has been fully engaged and supportive of the overall coronavirus response—voting in favor of the emergency supplemental last week, sending regular updates to Oklahomans, remaining engaged with the Department of Defense coronavirus response, applauding the president’s emergency declaration and providing constituent services to all Oklahomans impacted by the virus.
· Statement after voting for emergency funding to ensure sufficient funding for research and development of vaccinations, screening, treatment and other needs associated with the coronavirus.
The House-passed language would immediately mandate paid leave for all employers with fewer than 500 employees with no statutory exemptions. While the Department of Labor plans to issue a regulatory rule that small businesses with fewer than 50 employees could be exempt, the rulemaking process can take weeks to finalize—it would not be immediate relief.
Additionally, the House-passed language would force small and medium-sized businesses to cover the resources for the paid leave up front—stressing the resources and capital of businesses. The government-mandated requirement on small businesses would deplete their resources before any additional federal resources would be available. Many may be forced to close. Inhofe wants to ensure that after we weather the crisis, employees can return to their jobs—not be forced to find new ones because their company has gone under.
The Johnson Amendment, which was defeated by a vote of 50-48, would have provided two weeks of paid leave for employees through existing state unemployment insurance funds, which would be reimbursed by the federal government. This approach would have supported workers without unnecessarily stressing cash flow for small businesses and forcing them to close.