SIGN NOW: Paid Leave Saves Lives
I'll get right to the point: Paid leave saves lives, during the pandemic and always. Congress let it expire in December. We must include it in the next COVID-19 relief package.
Emergency paid leave was one of the first things Congress passed in a bipartisan vote last March in recognition of how important paid leave is to beating this public health crisis; however that law was very limited in who it covered AND it expired at the end of December, leaving millions of families and caregivers without this critical support. Families like Amanda’s from New Hampshire.
Amanda has a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son with special needs. Amanda worked at an auto dealership for 13 years before the pandemic. Her husband is an HVAC technician. When the pandemic hit, her children's daycare closed and her son lost access to in-person therapies and services, dramatically increasing Amanda's caregiving responsibilities and her stress. Her employer was not accommodating, and she did not have access to paid leave. She was forced to leave the job she loved to meet her kids' needs.
Stories like Amanda’s are why we need Congress to pass President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The Biden-Harris plan includes the reinstatement and strengthening of emergency paid leave as a critical part of COVID relief. This will save lives by preventing the spread of the virus, conserve health care resources, and save the jobs of workers and families across America.
But we don't just need paid leave during *this* pandemic: We must demand that Congress pass it AND a permanent paid leave program quickly so we’re never unprepared for a crisis again.
The research is clear: Paid leave saves lives and helps flatten the curve. In places where workers gained access to the limited emergency paid sick leave Congress passed last year, there were 15,000+ fewer cases per day.  And, this is even with a new program that was never fully advertised or implemented. And we know that access to paid leave is an important part of vaccine rollout.
Paid leave saves jobs and keeps women and caregivers in the workforce. Emergency family leave remains important as millions of families are struggling without child care or in-person school. In the December jobs report, women accounted for all 140,000 jobs lost.  Women of color have been bearing the brunt of the economic devastation the pandemic has brought. Some 82,000 Black women and 31,000 Latinas lost their jobs in December alone according to jobs reports.  Many more women and moms were forced to leave the labor force in the face of virtual schooling, dwindling child care options, and our nation’s lack of paid sick days and paid family leave. Overall, there are nearly 2.1 million fewer women in our country’s workforce today than were in it before the pandemic began.  If cases continue to peak, more schools and daycares will close. Paid leave can keep women and caregivers in their jobs and attached to their own benefits.
Further, paid leave is a cost-effective tool for public health and economic recovery. We can’t afford not to act. Even before the pandemic, workers and their families lost an estimated combined $22.5 billion in wages each year due to a lack of paid family and medical leave.  The lack of access to paid leave also leads to higher costs in unemployment, hospitalizations, and health care, and compounding financial losses.
Twenty eight years ago this week, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law. That important safety net has helped millions of people, but it was always meant to be a first step because it wasn’t *paid* leave.
Twenty eight years and one pandemic is long enough to wait to make good on the promise to pass paid leave. In 2021, No working person should have to choose between putting food on the table, or quarantining to protect their coworkers, families, or their own health.
Whether it’s to care for a newborn you swear already smiles, a mom who is severely ill, or a spouse battling cancer, or COVID or both, being there for family is what matters. We need permanent paid leave for all, and we need it now.
PS: Personal experiences are powerful and can make a HUGE difference in helping elected leaders understand how public policies impact families. We want to hear more from YOU! Can you take a second and follow the link below to share your personal story about how having, or NOT having, access to job-protected paid leave has impacted your family in the pandemic? https://action.momsrising.org/survey/COVID19_Stories/