New Hampshire-Based MomsRising Member, Whose Young Son Survived Cancer, Testifies About Need for Paid Family and Medical Leave Before House Oversight Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- MomsRising member Jacqui Silvani from Newfields, New Hampshire, whose family suffered without paid family and medical leave when her young son was diagnosed with cancer, testified today before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. MomsRising is an online and on-the-ground organization of more than one million mothers and their families, which has worked for paid family and medical leave throughout its 13-year history.
A Navy veteran, mother of three, and elementary school teacher, Silvani learned in 2015 that her then two-year-old son, Joe, had stage four neuroblastoma, or cancer of the nerve endings. Joe also had bone lesions on his hips, spine, shoulder blade, and femur. He would need multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplants, and painful immunotherapy. Joe spent 210 days in the hospital, and Silvani left her job to care for him.
Because she has no paid leave, the family lost a significant portion of its income. Silvani’s husband also has no paid leave. “At the same time we lost my income, we faced major new expenses,” Silvani testified. “My salary was gone, but we had to pay $1,700 per month for my health insurance. There were health care costs our insurance didn’t cover. Constantly taking Joe for treatment in Boston meant paying a lot for gas and parking. We needed before and after-school care for Joe’s siblings, including care over summers and school vacations. And we still needed to pay all our bills.”
Without paid leave, Joe’s medical crisis quickly became a financial crisis for the family. Friends held fundraisers to help them pay their mortgage.
Today Joe is a healthy second grader, but the family is still feeling the financial effects of Jacqui’s unpaid leave. “Often when we think about paid leave, we think about new babies. I know some lawmakers have offered proposals that only address leave for new parents. As a mom, I know how important parental leave is. But we needed family leave to care for Joe, and policies that don’t address the full range of caregiving needs would not have helped my family. No one plans for their child to get cancer -- for a parent to have a stroke -- or to need surgery yourself. But those things happen. Working people like my husband and me should be able to be there for our families, in times of joy and times of hardship.”
Silvani urged Committee members to support the FAMILY (Family And Medical Insurance Leave) Act, the only bipartisan paid leave proposal in Congress that would cover all workers, address the range of caregiving needs families face, and be affordable for taxpayers and businesses alike. It would improve public health, boost moms and all family caregivers, make workplaces more equitable, and strengthen the country’s nation’s economy.
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NOTE: Read Silvani’s testimony here.