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June 12, 2023

Barragán Introduces the Public Health Emergency Response Act

Legislation would provide a plan to support those impacted by Public Health Emergencies


June 12, 2023

Contact: Kevin McGuire


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Nanette Barragán (CA-44) introduced legislation to address future pandemics by providing paid sick and family leave to those impacted by public health emergencies declared as a result of infectious diseases. Paid sick and family leave provides workers with basic protections necessary to safeguard their health and income.

The Public Health Emergency Response Act would require employers to provide paid leave to employees who are isolating due to an infectious disease that has spread significantly enough to result in a declared public health emergency, those caring for a family member with the virus, or someone impacted by a place of care closure due to the covered disease.

“Now that the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declaration has ended, it is the time for Congress to proactively prepare for future pandemics. Our nation’s experiences with COVID-19 and MPOX have illustrated the need for policies that accommodate the varying differences between diseases,” said Congresswoman Barragán. “We must work to ensure that individuals can recover at home with proper support during a pandemic without fear of losing their job and income or inability to care for their loved ones.”

“Paid sick days are essential for our nation’s public health and for workers’ economic security. Yet nearly one-quarter of private sector workers – and nearly 7 in 10 of the lowest-income workers – don’t have access to even a single paid sick day. As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers who are disproportionately Black and brown were the least likely to have paid sick days, hurting their health and economic security and endangering public health. The Public Health Emergency Response Act would ensure that we are prepared the next time a public health emergency strikes, and I applaud Congresswoman Barragán for her leadership in introducing this legislation and her recognition of the need to use every tool to equitably address future public health emergencies,” said Vice President for Economic Justice, Sharita Gruberg, National Partnership for Women & Families.

“The Public Health Emergency Response Act would provide vital emergency paid sick leave to those being impacted by infectious diseases during public health emergencies,” said Dr. Stephen Lee, NASTAD Executive Director. “The PHERA contains provisions that dismantle systemic barriers to health equity and ensure individuals and families that are disproportionately being impacted by infectious diseases receive the income security that they need to safely recover. NASTAD urges Congress to quickly pass the PHERA to provide these individuals and families with immediate relief.”

The Public Health Emergency Response Act is modeled after the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) enacted in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The bill requires employers to provide paid leave for specified reasons related to Public Health Emergencies:

  1. Provides paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay when the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined or experiencing symptoms of a covered disease and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
    ○ Paid sick leave because the employee is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine.
  2. At least twelve weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay when an employee is unable to work due to a need for leave to care for a family member impacted by a place of care closure related to a public health emergency.
  3. Authorizes the Department of Labor, in consultation with the Centers for Disease and Control, to determine the number of eligible weeks of leave an employee receives related to the covered disease.
  4. Prohibits an employer from interfering or retaliating against an employee for using their right to paid leave.

The Public Health Emergencies Response Act also provides employers with refundable tax credits that reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave wages to their employees for leave related to a public health emergency.

In the House, Barragán is joined by Representatives Carson (IN-07), Lynch (MA-08), Norton (D-DC), Tokuda (HI-02) as original cosponsors.

The following organizations have endorsed the bill: AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC), APLA Health, Caring Across Generations, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Community Education Group, DAP Health, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Los Angeles LGBT Center, National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors, National Partnership for Women & Families, Treatment Action Group, and United Food and Commercial Workers.


Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Bellflower, Carson, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Lakewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Paramount, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, West Carson, and Wilmington. She serves as Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Health, Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Minerals Subcommittees.