The call from some of DC’s key business leaders to delay implementation of DC’s paid family and medical leave program in the middle of a global health crisis is heartless and short-sighted. We are all affected by this crisis, and we need to stick together, like never before in our lives. Taking care of our community now is key to coming out of the pandemic as economically strong as possible.
DC’s paid family and medical leave program, which helps workers financially when they need to take care of an ill relative or to address their own illness, should move forward in July as planned.
This issue is deeply important to me. Nobody should have to choose between working to pay their bills versus caring for loved ones who are ill or tending to a new baby. I’m a parent who took unpaid time off when my sons were born, but I know that many workers can’t afford to do that. At DCFPI, as an employer, I was excited that DC’s new program would allow me to provide an important benefit to our employees, at a modest cost that barely registered in the organization’s budget.
I’m proud to have been a part of the effort to bring paid family leave to the District, with its focus on equity and access for low-wage workers, and I worked hard to fight corporate efforts to repeal-and-replace it with a significantly flawed version. Indeed, throughout 2017 and 2018 I personally fought hard to defend paid family and medical leave, helping to halt the repeal-and-replace campaign.
This pandemic has laid bare our society’s deep economic and racial inequities. COVID-19 is striking Black and brown residents the hardest, in part because most essential workers and workers who must leave their homes for employment are people of color. Indeed, systemic racism created deep health inequities and vulnerabilities long before the pandemic. DC’s paid family and medical leave program is essential to these workers and their communities, who have largely been denied any form of paid leave benefits for too long.
The pandemic also has shown our city’s economic vulnerability when we don’t adopt public policies and build systems to protect public health and economic security for workers. It reinforces the need for inclusive paid leave insurance programs to be up and running to help DC prepare to reopen safely. Paid family and medical leave is coming at the precise time that our family and city needs it. It’s a shame anyone would be so shortsighted to think otherwise.