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California brings back extended paid leave, gives restaurants a tax break

Workers are now entitled to up to 80 hours of pay while they nurse themselves or a family member back from a case of COVID-19.
Photo of Newsom from Shutterstock

California restaurants employing more than 25 people will be obliged to provide each with up to 80 hours of paid COVID-related leave under a measure signed into law yesterday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Democrat also signed legislation that allows restaurants to exclude any grant money received through the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund from their 2021 taxable income. The financial aid was already exempt from federal taxation. Newsom broadened the exclusion to keep the direct financial aid from being taxed by the state as income.

Similarly, dinner theaters that qualified for federal aid to shuttered venues will not have to pay any income tax on those funds.

The governor’s office calculated that the tax breaks should save restaurants and performance venues about $500 million.

Newsom also signed a measure that channels an additional $150 million into the state’s grant program for small businesses. Through the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, eligible enterprises will receive direct assistance of up to $25,000 each.

The paid leave measure reinstates the worker assistance that California provided earlier in the pandemic. That initiative expired on Sept. 30, 2021. The newly signed legislation mandates that employers pay employees for any worktime they’ve missed because of COVID since Jan. 1.

Under the bill signed Wednesday, employees of businesses with up to 25 employees are entitled to 40 hours of paid leave time if they contract COVID-19 or have to quarantine because of an exposure. An additional 40 hours of paid time is provided if an employee’s family member is stricken with the illness.

Employees who work less than 40 hours per week are entitled to pay for the amount of time they usually work over a seven-day stretch.

The program expires on Sept. 30.

Newsom had pledged weeks ago to sign the paid-leave and tax-exemption bills. Since then, the upsurge in coronavirus infections from the omicron variant has declined steeply. On the day the governor put pen to paper, a number of his counterparts were announcing an end to their state’s mask mandates.

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