Businesses want gov't help on flu

A dose of flu vaccination is administered during an exercise at TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Va.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: The Centers for Disease Control said today that swine flu is present in all 50 states. But also that tests on a vaccine are moving along and should be available in a month or so. Small businesses are wishing there was a shot they could get. If lots of employees are out sick, as expected, there is some work that just won't get done.

And at a Congressional hearing this week, businesses from credit unions to doctors' offices warned they might need a little government TLC to get 'em through an outbreak.

From the Entrepreneurship Desk at Oregon Public Broadcasting, Mitchell Hartman reports.


Mitchell Hartman: Banks and credit unions file a lot of government paperwork, and usually they can't get an extension, because "Our CPAs were all out sick."

But Anthony Demangone of the credit unions' national association says that's what they might need this time around.

Anthony Demangone: In a pandemic, their ability to respond to regulations and comply may be temporarily stunted to a certain degree. And we just kind of hope that regulators take that into account.

Demangone says credit unions just want to be "cut some slack" if they've planned for the flu and still can't make the deadlines.

Of course, at many companies, it's the employees who aren't cut much slack. If they're not given paid time off for being sick, they'll come to work and infect others, increasing absenteeism.

Gillian SteelFisher of the Harvard School for Public Health says while three-quarters of companies offer some paid sick leave:

Gillian SteelFisher: About a third of businesses offer paid leave for people to care for sick family members. And even fewer offer paid leave if the schools or day cares are closed due to such an outbreak.

Harold Jackson owns a medical supply company in Colorado. He's not looking for government help. But he does want a robust public health campaign to minimize the epidemic. And he's got his own plan to fight the flu.

Harold Jackson: The deal I've cut with my employees is, we'll give you the shot for free. And if you have to have time off, because either you're ill or your children are ill, we'll cover the expense.

Doctors, meanwhile, say giving all those flu shots is going to be costly. They're asking for higher Medicaid reimbursements.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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