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Michelle Noehren's picture

After the White House Summit on Working Families in June, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) developed a new grant designed to help states study the economic feasibility of creating a system of paid family leave. The grant announcement stated that up to five states may be selected for this opportunity and that the application must be submitted through the Governor’s office by the end of July.

My co-chair of the CT Campaign for Paid Family Leave and I jumped at the chance to encourage our state to apply. Our governor agreed right away to work with our Connecticut DOL in drafting the grant and they did an admirable job meeting the tight deadline provided. Connecticut’s grant application is in and we think we’re well poised to be one of the five states selected.

You see, Connecticut has been working on this issue for the past several years. Last year the Legislature created a Family & Medical Leave Insurance task force that has been examining this issue for the past 11 months. Additionally, the CT Campaign for Paid Family Leave has been working for the past two years to build community support for paid family leave and has almost 40 diverse organizations signed onto our work. Just last week the Campaign released our recommendations for the key elements of any paid family leave legislation raised at the Connecticut Legislature.

I believe that paid family leave is one of the most important issues facing our state and country right now. Almost every worker will face a situation that requires them to take time off from work – whether it’s to care for a new baby, sick family member or elderly parent – or for their own serious illness.

The tide is shifting and there’s more support for paid family leave now than ever before. Just within the past few days I’ve read pieces by The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post – all outlining why workers need paid leave. Public support is on our side because so many people have their own personal experiences with needing paid time off but not having access to it.

As we’ve been building momentum locally, we’re hearing more and more stories from Connecticut workers who have suffered both financially and emotionally due to the current lack of paid leave. Just last week one Connecticut mom I spoke with told me that because she didn’t receive paid time off after the birth of her baby she “often cried during the last few weeks of unpaid leave I had with my daughter and I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I wanted. In a way, not having paid leave stripped away some of those happy new mom moments.” Unfortunately her story is far too common.

I’m glad that Connecticut has gone after this new DOL grant with full force because something needs to be done to address the concerns of employees. Having an economic feasibility study conducted based on our recommendations will go a long way in helping our state implement the best paid family leave system possible.

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