Economics in Brief: COVID-19 Is Shaking Up Sick Leave, Changing Telecommuting and Leading to Layoffs
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Economics in Brief: COVID-19 Is Shaking Up Sick Leave, Changing Telecommuting and Leading to Layoffs

The economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are felt everywhere.

Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden and other chain restaurants, announced it would extend permanent paid sick benefits to all employees. (Photo by Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0)

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COVID-19 Coronavirus Leads Major Companies to Change Sick Leave Policies

Walmart, McDonald’s, Apple, Instacart, Uber, Lyft and Olive Garden’s parent company have all updated their sick leave policies to prevent COVID-19’s spread.

Walmart, which employs 1.5 million people and is the largest private employer in the country, announced this week it would give up to two weeks of pay for employees who get the virus or are subject to quarantine; the company also said that workers who need more time to recover could be paid for up to 26 weeks, according to the New York Times.

Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden and other chain restaurants, announced it would extend permanent paid sick benefits to all employees; that announcement came ten hours after Popular Information, a progressive online newsletter, published an article about the chain’s lack of paid sick time. Business Insider called the move a “watershed moment for the restaurant industry.”

Meanwhile, Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a bill to require paid sick leave during public health emergencies.

Cities Impose Water Shutoff Moratoria

Detroit, Toledo, St. Louis and Atlanta have all directed their water utilities to halt shutoffs while the coronavirus spreads.

Those cities have ordered that no household’s water can be shut off for nonpayment, so that residents can continue to wash their hands. Detroit is also beginning a process of restoring water to customers whose service has already been cut.

“We know that washing hands is an important defense to this virus, so for the duration of the COVID-19 situation, DWSD is implementing this plan to help make sure every Detroiter has access to clean running water,” Detroit Water and Sewarage Department (DWSD) Director Gary Brown said in a news release obtained by Detroit Metro Times.

U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn (OK-5) has asked Congress to include subsidies for citizens unable to pay water bills in an emergency coronavirus stimulus package, KFOR reports.

Working From Home Becoming the New Normal at Banks and Elsewhere

JPMorgan Chase has asked New York- and Seattle-area employees to work from home at least half the time, and Capital One has told staff to work from home as much as possible to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, American Banker reports. The moves affect mostly corporate employees but not branch workers or traders, although Capital One said it would space out employees to “reduce density” in branches.

Also this week, American Banker said, Citigroup said it would ask half its workforce to work remotely at a time, and Wells Fargo & Co. asked workers to “test” their ability to work from home.

Federal Reserve staff at the New York, San Francisco and Boston locations are also encouraged to work from home, Reuters reports.

First COVID-19 Layoffs Have Arrived at Ports, Hotels

A trucking company that services the Port of Los Angeles has laid off 145 drivers and furloughed more, as COVID-19 has slowed the arrival of goods from China, Stars & Stripes reports. A hotel in Seattle is closing an entire department (the paper did not say which department), and at least one retail store — a cookie bakery — has begun layoffs as customer traffic dries up.

“I’ve been working the ports for 13 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Randy Williams, a trucker for Shippers Transport Express, which serves the Port of Los Angeles, told the paper. “I’m glad I didn’t buy a house yet.”

“The disruption to trade will be felt well beyond the dock workers,” Stephen Levy, senior economist at the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, told the paper. “Half of China’s goods come to the Port of Los Angeles. That will be felt by warehouse workers, truckers and people in the wholesale trade.”

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi.

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