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Paid family leave could become law. Families share what it would mean


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A sweeping new legislative proposal on Capitol Hill could give Congress a rare opportunity to address an issue that has long been on the backburner – paid family leave.

Only a few workers today have the ability to take time off work to care for loved ones and their medical needs.

Legislators on both sides of this aisle proposed a national policy for paid time off so all workers have the opportunity to be away from work.

Covid-19’s pandemic helped to bring attention to this issue. Congress has not paid much attention since the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which allowed employees to take unpaid leave in order for their family and medical needs.

Temporary programs were created to pay businesses for paid leave they provided to their employees in the event of a pandemic.

Now lawmakers are working to negotiate the terms of a longer-term policy. This could grant workers up 12 weeks leave.

Supporters applaud this move which will help the United States align with other industrialized nation.

Molly Day, Paid Leave For The United States executive director said that Paid Leave is a “cornerstone policy.” Paid leave allows women to go back to work after being laid off. It also helps small businesses retain and attract talent. On a global scale, it is actually more competitive.

Payed Family Leave has been criticized in a number of ways, including over its cost and the potential impact on existing business policies.

Families with severe care needs claim that their lives will be better if they have access to paid family time.

Make tough choices

Ashton Dargenzio (29), a Pittsburgh mother, had to make a difficult choice between continuing her work to pay the bills and taking unpaid maternity leaves.

“Because my only child is a mother, it was impossible for me to make a decision,” she stated.

Dargenzio’s baby girl was taken straight to the neonatal intensive care unit upon her birth, complicating the situation.

Dargenzio had to have a C-section and was not able to remain in hospital with her child due to Covid-19.

Instead she would get up earlier each day to take her child to the hospital, breastfeed and then proceed to work in another hospital room. Dargenzio would then move to the waiting area of the hospital, set up her new workstation, and she’d be done.

Dargenzio works as a contractor in the field of information technology. She said that this requires her to solve problems and fix them.

This schedule was followed throughout her 12 week maternity leave.

Dargenzio stated, “It was one the most frustrating and stressful experiences I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

“Not being able to have paid leave has opened my eyes to the reality of how many people do not get that experience,” she stated.

Dargenzio is likely to face more challenges as she juggles work and care for her daughter.

Dargenzio’s daughter, Dargenzio has bilateral hip dysplasia. She will require three operations. This will result in her daughter having a cast down to her ankles, and limited mobility.

Dargenzio will likely take a week off from each operation to care for her child. The full recovery period after any procedure will take approximately six weeks.

Dargenzio explained that accessing a policy of paid leave would be a great help.

Instead of worrying about paying her rent or utility bills, she can focus her attention on her child’s needs.

Dargenzio expressed his gratitude for Dargenzio’s ability to get up each morning with the sole focus of her and her family.

She said, “No parent should worry about such a thing.”

Different States

Adrienne Streater (45), gave birth to her second daughter and returned to work after a 20-day emergency C-section.

She was not allowed to take leave at her South Carolina startup company. She was allowed to work as many hours per week as she wanted, but she did not have to take a formal leave policy.

Streater said that caring for their daughter, who has special needs, was difficult for her and her husband.

At 10 weeks, her daughter needed surgery. She had another procedure at 18 months.

Streater stated, “There is a Southern saying that God won’t place more pressure on you than your ability to handle.” It was a deception.

Streater said that much of her worry about Streater’s first pregnancy stayed with her after she had her second baby, a daughter. This contributed to her postpartum depression.

Douglas Streater had already moved with Streater from South Carolina to New York, so their second experience was quite different.

The four weeks of vacation that her husband had earned at work allowed him to care for her baby. He received his regular paychecks during this time.

Streater claimed, “We didn’t loose a beat financially.”

She said that other families may be in a similar situation.

Her ability to work has been affected by the fact that she had to spend time caring for her children.

Streater explained, “My career is certainly not what I had envisioned when I was 25,” “I am proud to say that at the end, I know I have two healthy and beautiful daughters for which I would give anything.”

Streater explained that her and her husband taught their daughters at 7 and 5 years of age, Streater and Streater, the importance of making sure they have all options.

This should also apply to parents who have to spend time caring for their children.

‘A huge step’

Megan Hebdon (37), was a brand new mother when her 1-year old daughter began having health issues.

Violent seizures required hospitalization and numerous follow-up appointments with doctors.

Hebdon has been raising his daughter since then. She’s now 11 years old and she has seen periods of well-being and no seizures. Other times, she’s spent time in the hospital each month. She almost died three years ago.

Family members who live in Austin have suffered from health issues that not only left them feeling emotionally but also financially.

Hebdon was an early nurse practitioner at a clinic and could take unpaid time under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Hebdon explained that the financial burden was too much for his family.

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She had to choose between making sure their child was well cared for or earning income for her family. Hebdon explained, “It’s hard to make a decision.”

Hebdon’s resume also shows the fluctuations in her daughter’s health.

Hebdon was a self-described “yes guy” but there were always challenges. Hebdon had to decide between his family and work when the employers weren’t flexible.

Hebdon stated, “If I looked at my past work history you would most likely think that I am unreliable.”

Hebdon believes that a national pay leave policy will be implemented, which would relieve her and other family members who are also struggling to find work, finance, or caregiving. These difficulties have been made more difficult by the Covid-19 pandemic, Hebdon said.

Hebdon stated that although he believes there are more ways to improve the social environment for caregivers and people living with chronic illnesses, Hebdon still considers it a significant step.