Paid Leave: A Permanent, Collective Solution When Our Whole World Is Changing

 

The coronavirus has changed life as we know it. Many Georgia families are making tough decisions everyday – weighing whether or not it’s safe to return to work or school and trying to plan on how they’ll afford to pay their bills if they become sick. 

Georgia State Director Mica Whitfield and her children wearing face masks.

I’m thankful that I can work from home, but as the start date for school draws closer I’m concerned about how I will manage working from home while also assisting my kindergartener and 2nd grader with digital learning. I remind myself that this issue isn’t unique to our family. Working families across the country are facing this challenge everyday, on top of navigating the “new normal” brought on by the pandemic. This collective problem we’re facing would look much different if the U.S. had paid family and medical leave.

Paid leave provides critical support for workers and their families. The responsibilities of home and family life are ever competing, particularly for those without the needed financial support in the event of a medical or family disaster. For workers earning low wages, events like the COVID-19 pandemic make it even more challenging to maintain family financial security, as many of them are considered essential and are on the front lines risking their lives while also risking themselves for further exposure. 

In March of this year Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provided temporary, emergency paid leave for a portion of the workforce. However, I think we can agree that we need a permanent solution that does not carve out nearly 106 million workers nationwide, as the FFCRA does.  

Paid leave is a public health and economic policy solution that families need to stay healthy, attend to childcare needs, and meet their financial responsibilities. 

Here’s what you can do to demand paid leave for all: 

  • Make this an election-year issue! Ask your candidates and elected officials what their position is on a national paid leave policy, and what they’re doing about it. If you’re calling voters, ask them if they know about paid leave and if they’re willing to ask their elected officials for it.
  • Share your story on why you and your community need or have benefitted from, paid leave, whether during the COVID crisis or at another time. 

This pandemic has thrown a harsh spotlight on a reality that has always been true: We all get sick. We all have times we need to care for our loved ones or be cared for. And that means we need a paid family and medical leave policy that supports every worker and every family, especially those who are the most vulnerable or have the least to fall back on.

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