New York is the only state that mandates paid COVID sick days

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – There’s only one state in the union that still mandates COVID sick pay. It’s New York.
And business owners are complaining about it.

The governor’s office says because people may have to isolate for five days if they test positive, they’re entitled to be paid.

“This operator is grinding two diameters at one time,” said Bob Rock, owner of Certified Grinding and Machine in Rochester.

He brought it 20 years ago after an engineering career at Kodak.

Rock rails against what he calls “onerous” rules and costs against businesses in New York, like five paid COVID sick days.

“It’s five extra days,” I said. “What’s the big deal?”

“Think about that – five extra days for every single employee at my company,” Rock said. “You’re talking about thousands of dollars that would come out of our pocket.”

Employees can get five paid COVID sick days, up to three times a year.

States like California and Illinois still require five days of isolation for COVID but they dropped their extra sick pay this year.

“You can say it doesn’t impact companies anymore,” Rock said. “I just paid an employee last week for COVID time off. So it’s still affecting us. It’s still costing us money.”

A bill in the state legislature, specifically in the senate and assembly labor committees, sponsored by Rochester State Senator Jeremy Cooney and Albany-area Assemblyman John McDonald, would try to end COVID sick pay.

It would set a study period on the pros and cons of COVID sick pay and if, after 60 days, there’s no effort by the state to change it, the COVID sick day law would “sunset.”

“It’s really time that we look at COVID like any other health care issue,” said Assemblyman John McDonald who is also a pharmacist and small business owner. “We do not have five days set aside for influenza.”

In a emailed statement, the governor’s office says “The governor will keep working with the legislature on solutions that continue state support for businesses while allowing New Yorkers to take the proper precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19.”

In the email, the governor’s office listed the aid to small businesses to deal with COVID issues including:

– $800M in pandemic recovery grants

– $200M in seed grants for early-stage businesses.

– $500M in federal funding to accelerate New York businesses’ recovery through the federal State Small Business Credit Initiative.

“New York State is 49th in business climate,” Rock said quoting the Tax Foundation’s 2023 State Business Tax Climate Index report. “You can’t be the lowest in every score and be successful.”

Rochester Regional Health says it has 32 people in its five hospitals because of COVID. That’s 10 more in the last 30 days, but pretty much where the system was last year.

URMC has 16 patients with COVID and most are there for some other reason and tested positive at the hospital. Last September, URMC had 60.

The earliest the Cooney/McDonald bill gets passed is April 1st (start of the state fiscal year) or mid-June (the end of the legislative session).