Thursday, May 28, 2020

Let's Celebrate & Expand Families First Paid Leave

Family comes first. At least, we often say that it does. But our policymakers' choices have created an economy full of low-quality jobs and a threadbare social safety net that make being there for family extremely difficult. In fact, it took a pandemic for lawmakers to finally take a historic step toward honoring our "families first" values: Congress finally put a paid leave law on the books. 

While some Indiana legislators have pushed to create paid leave programs or, at the very least, minimal paid sick day standards for employers, our legislative leaders have refused year after year to even study the issue. When COVID-19 hit Indiana, four in five workers had no paid family leave through their job and about one million Hoosier workers could not earn a single paid sick day. The advice to “stay home when sick” and school closure announcements left these families with incredibly difficult choices.

Fortunately, Congress stepped up to the plate. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act granted many workers two weeks of emergency paid sick leave and up to ten weeks of emergency paid family leave for school or child care closures. Enacting a paid leave standard – even a limited one – marked a historic moment. For the first time, the United States joins nearly every other country in the world in having a national paid leave policy. For at least some people in the United States, taking time off when sick or when a family member needs care no longer costs a paycheck – at least for now.


However, loopholes cut many workers out, including health care workers, essential workers, and employees of businesses with over five hundred employees. In Indiana, that last carve-out alone cuts out an estimated 1.5 million Hoosiers who work for larger employers like big box retailers and chain restaurants. Furthermore, it is absurd to think that the people who are working to keep us healthy and safe on the frontlines in ERs or other health care facilities cannot call in sick themselves. Plus, the provisions are temporary.

As we start to reopen, it is critical to close these loopholes. Congress must expand paid leave for workers, especially those who are likely to come into contact with many members the public. If Congress will not act, we echo the calls from elected officials like House Leader GiaQuinta and partners like Faith in Indiana who are asking Governor Holcomb to provide emergency paid leave for these workers, as other governors have done. 

Even before this crisis, evidence showed that paid leave protects public health, keeps people attached to their jobs, and makes workplaces safer. It is unfortunate that it took a pandemic for policymakers to enact a paid leave law that covered (at least some) Hoosier workers. We celebrate and welcome the step forward we have taken as a nation in providing this paid leave standard. We cannot stop here. Paid leave will allow us to put families first and protect our health in this crisis, especially as we reopen and get back to work - and it must be accessible to all.  

TAKE ACTION:

->Ask Governor Holcomb to provide paid leave for workers who were left out of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  

->Senator Randolph and Representative Campbell both filed paid leave bills in Indiana in the 2020 legislative session. Can you send them a quick thank you note to encourage them to keep fighting for paid leave?
     --Senator Randolph: s2@iga.in.gov
     --Representative Campbell: h26@iga.in.gov

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