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LA City Council Passes More COVID-19 Protections for Workers, Renters

A nearly empty chamber for a remote L.A. City Council meeting. (Screenshot shows streamed meeting)
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In a marathon meeting Friday, the Los Angeles City Council passed a round of emergency measures intended to add protections for renters and workers at large businesses struggling during the pandemic.

The city now requires businesses with over 500 employees to provide 80 hours of paid leave that workers can use to recover from COVID-19 or care for their family. This category of employers had been exempted from the federal coronavirus sick leave bill signed into law last week.

The council, however, opted to follow Congress’ example and exempt businesses with 50 employees or less from its paid leave mandate. The exemption was made after small business owners complained to the council that mandating the sick leave would "bankrupt every restaurant, bar and retail store in Los Angeles and the related businesses that depend on them," according to a letter from Hunter Hall, a principal at Archetype Hospitality & Development.

"They will never be able to reopen if they are forced to pay what is effectively a 2-week severance to every single employee because they were forced to shut down," Hall wrote.

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The council also expanded the length of time renters can pay back rent that goes unpaid during the coronavirus outbreak -- from the six months originally proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to a year.

And the council expanded eviction protections during the outbreak to include tenants who exceed the number of people allowed in a unit, the LA Times reported.

The 11-hour meeting was conducted over Zoom to minimize the chance of spreading the virus at City Hall, with Martinez the only councilmember present in council chambers.

City Hall reporters found themselves in a brave new world of political reporting as they watched the councilmembers orating from inside their homes:

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The Zoom council meeting had to be halted at one point because some in the audience were posting pornographic images.