AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is expanding leave options for state employees in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak as mandated under a federal law that passed in mid-March.
The state’s budget department announced on Thursday that state employees now have access to 10 additional days of paid sick leave for coronavirus-related absences, as well as 10 weeks of paid leave, and an additional two weeks unpaid, to care for a child due to a coronavirus-related school or daycare closure. The leave policies do not apply to health care workers, emergency responders or unemployment compensation workers.
The changes, which went into effect on April 1, are in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which passed the U.S. Congress with the support of Maine’s entire delegation and was signed into law on March 18. The law requires certain public employers, including the state of Maine, as well as private businesses with between 50 and 500 workers, to offer paid leave to all employees for coronavirus-related absences.
In a statement on Thursday, Dean Staffieri, president of the Maine Service Employees Association, the union representing more than 12,000 state workers, said he hoped that the state would offer wage replacement to workers who have already taken leave due to the coronavirus.
The union has repeatedly called on the state to expand work-from-home options and offer paid leave to all non essential state employees, citing concerns about the transmission of the virus in the workplace.
“Those who can’t work from home should be released with pay to protect themselves, their families, first responders, and the general public,” Staffieri said on Thursday.
At least four state employees have contracted the coronavirus so far, including two workers at the Department of Health and Human Services office in Lewiston, as well as one transportation worker who died of the virus last weekend. As of Thursday, there were 376 confirmed cases of the virus in Maine with seven total deaths.
Kyle Hadyniak, a spokesperson for Maine’s budget department, said in a release on Thursday afternoon that the state will “continue to expand work from home opportunities and continue to assess the need for some employees to report to work.”
Hadyniak said earlier this week that the department estimates that about 70 percent of state employees, excluding law enforcement and emergency personnel, are currently working from home.