WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: The Ways and Means Paid Leave Proposal Is an Urgent Necessity

Sep 9, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC— As the Ways and Means Committee begins marking up its proposal to invest in universal paid family and medical leave, a wide range of industry leaders and advocates are applauding the measure and urging its swift advancement as part of the Build Back Better Act.

Roughly four in five workers in the United States are not provided paid family and medical leave by their employers, and that lack of access drives workers – particularly women – out of the labor force. The Ways and Means proposal funds a comprehensive program that would provide up to 12 weeks of parental, serious medical condition, or caregiving leave for workers when they need it, and put an end to their fear of losing their job or paycheck when taking necessary time away from the workplace.

TUNE IN TO THE MARKUP AT 10:00 a.m. ET HERE

Read more about the Ways and Means Committee’s proposal for comprehensive paid leave HERE.

Here’s what key stakeholders are saying:

1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions:          

“1,000 Days is grateful to Chairman Richard Neal and the Ways and Means Committee for their dedication and leadership in the fight for universal, equitable paid family and medical leave. We applaud the Chairman for his decision to prioritize investment in a comprehensive, progressive policy to meet the needs of workers and families. It is time to enact a comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy to strengthen the economy, support optimal child development, improve maternal health, reduce disparities and enable future generations to live healthier lives.” – Blythe Thomas, Initiative Director

A Better Balance:

“A Better Balance applauds Chairman Richard Neal and the Ways and Means Committee for their deep commitment and continual leadership in advancing the inclusive, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program all workers across America need now. We are especially grateful for their continual leadership and bold vision in building a paid leave program that is permanent, covers all workers, and addresses a range of caregiving needs, including caring for one’s own medical needs, caring for a seriously ill loved one, and welcoming a new child. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown in sharp relief, we cannot continue to leave workers without the support they need to care for themselves and their loved ones and stay afloat economically. We look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Neal, champions across Congress, and the White House to make paid leave for all a reality—it is an urgent matter of gender and racial equity, economic recovery, and public health.” – Sherry Leiwant, Co-Founder and Co-President

A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center:             

“We are thrilled that the proposal put forth today by Chairman Richard Neal and the Ways and Means Committee will rectify this glaring gap in our policies by proposing a bold, inclusive paid family and medical leave plan families across America need now, with a program that is permanent, covers all workers, and addresses a range of caregiving needs, providing 12 weeks of paid leave to care for one’s own medical needs, care for a seriously ill loved one, to welcome a new child, or address the impact of military deployment… A Better Balance applauds Chairman Richard Neal and the Ways and Means Committee for their deep commitment and continual leadership in advancing paid leave for all and for recognizing that a new program as important as this will require a robust commitment of resources to fulfill its purpose.” – Co-President and Co-Founder

AARP:

"Among working caregivers, nearly six in ten say their employer does not offer paid family leave, which is why it is essential this new benefit be comprehensive and available to all workers equally. AARP applauds Chairman Neal for treating all workers equitably and ensuring this new benefit is inclusive so everyone can take time to care for themselves, family members, and loved ones. Chairman Neal recognizes the benefit must cover all purposes, including caregiving and medical leave, and not differentiate between the reason for needing paid leave by offering the same level of support. All workers may face a time in their career when they need extended time from their employment to take care of themselves or a loved one. They should not have to choose between that and losing a paycheck or their job." – Nancy A. LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer             

American Academy of Pediatrics:

"Paid leave allows parents to bond with their baby during the critical first weeks of life, helping to establish healthy relationships, and it also increases the likelihood that parents will fully vaccinate their babies. For parents of children with special health care needs, paid leave affords them the job security required to give their full attention to their child's health and development. Paid leave helps keep families out of poverty and able to put food on the table. Universal and comprehensive paid leave like that in the Build Back Better Act would address inequities faced by communities of color and families with lower income who are less likely to have access to it. The Academy commends U.S. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) for his leadership and for making paid leave a top priority. When the committee considers these proposals later this week, we urge them to advance this strong policy and others like making the child tax credit permanent that are essential to putting the health of children and families first. We can't let them down." – Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics

American Council of Life Insurers:

“On behalf of the American Council of Life Insurers, I write to express appreciation for your legislative work to substantially address the retirement savings gap for American workers. In addition, your approach to expanding paid family and medical leave is essential to achieving this landmark policy goal and meeting the needs of American families…We appreciate that your proposal in the reconciliation bill recognizes the tools and experience provided by private insurers and the opportunity to cover more workers and families through employer-based plans. We support the government setting guidelines, providing employer incentives, and supporting workers who don’t have access to paid leave. Our industry is a committed partner to moving quickly and cost-effectively to ensure that no worker suffers economic loss when taking time off to care for their family. We support your initiative to achieve this essential financial protection for families and strengthen the safety net for every stage of life.”—Susan K. Neely, President & CEO

American Sustainable Business Council:

“The ongoing pandemic has spotlighted the necessity for businesses to have a well-established paid-leave system. Contrary to the arguments of opponents, paid leave programs will save businesses by improving employee retention and reducing training costs, along with increasing productivity, and consumer confidence. The 250,000 businesses represented by American Sustainable Business Council understand this, and applaud the House Ways and Means Committee, and especially Chairman Neal, for the leadership they’ve demonstrated in moving to eliminate the U.S. from the short list of nations that do not have paid family and medical leave.”

Black Women’s Roundtable:

“The Black Women’s Roundtable commends Chairman Neal and the House Ways and Means Committee for taking an historic step toward a long-awaited national paid family and medical leave policy. Sixty-eight percent of Black women are the sole breadwinners in our households. This makes us least able to afford losing any portion of our pay if an illness strikes or we must take care of a family member. Without paid leave, Black women have to choose between their families and a paycheck, their health and their work. No one should have to make these types of choices for their family. We thank Chairman Neal and the House Ways and Means Committee for making it clear that they are putting the needs of families first.” Melanie L. Campbell, President & CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; National Convener

Center for American Progress:

“Chairman Neal has proposed an historic investment in a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program to address the significant gaps in caregiving supports facing millions of families. His proposal is a bold, long overdue step forward to provide families with vital income support to ensure that their loved ones are cared for at the most critical moments in their lives. His inclusion of advancements such as progressive wage replacement to provide higher levels of support to the lowest paid workers, a chosen family definition that is more inclusive of different types of family relationships, and a full 12 weeks of leave for medical and family caregiving purposes will make an enormous difference in the lives of families across the country. The pandemic has been a stark reminder of the lack of leave protections for workers and the dire economic consequences that may result when workers have to make impossible choices between keeping a job or caring for family. Low paid workers, disproportionately women of color, are least likely to have access to income supports like paid leave when a family or medical emergency arises.  Chairman Neal’s proposal would fundamentally change the landscape by ensuring that these lowest paid workers would be able to access much-needed income when there is a care need.” – Jocelyn Frye, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP):

“The pandemic has shown our country what families and workers have known for years: that all workers, particularly those who earn low wages, workers of color, and women need and deserve paid family and medical leave. All of us need time to care, and the economy can only thrive when work and caregiving are both possible. We thank Chairman Neal for recognizing and prioritizing the needs of families and workers. Chairman Neal’s leadership and commitment are taking us one step closer to finally making paid leave a reality that is long overdue.” – Olivia Golden, Executive Director

Community Change Action:

“We cannot build an equitable economy without valuing care and improving the wages of workers who provide it. Creating an equitable child care system and raising the wages of workers is a critical part of the economic infrastructure of our nation, that’s why we applaud Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) for moving forward a proposal under budget reconciliation to strengthen access to child care and improve wages.” – Wendoly Marte, economic justice director from Community Change Action

COVID Survivors for Change:     

“We applaud the House Ways & Means Committee and Chairman Neal for their leadership in marking up a historic national paid family and medical leave policy.  This important policy would not only help survivors struggling with COVID, it would help reduce the toll of future pandemics and support our nation’s everyday caregiving needs. COVID has revealed how vital it is for everyone to be able to take time to care for themselves or a loved one without having to worry about paying rent, keeping their home, or putting food on the table for their family, and today’s action is an important step forward in accomplishing that.” – Chris Kocher, Executive Director

Family Values @ Work:

“On behalf of our network of state coalitions in more than two dozen states, representing millions of working people, Family Values @ Work sends deep appreciation to Chairman Neal and the members of the Ways and Means Committee for insisting on a paid leave policy framework that centers racial, gender, and economic justice. We are especially thankful that the committee has built on the evidence and lessons from state paid leave programs: that paid leave must be affordable and accessible for all, cover all forms of care, apply to all types of families, and be of long enough duration to be effective. With our network, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that this policy, so urgently needed and so beneficial, becomes reality.” – Sade Moonsammy, Interim Executive Director

Family Voices NJ:

“On behalf of Family Voices NJ, we send our appreciation to Chairman Neal and the members of the Ways and Means Committee for insisting on a paid leave policy that is inclusive and equitable. We serve families of children with special health care needs.  Our state has paid leave but this is needed nationally.  We appreciate that consideration has been given to current state leave programs.  Although the FMLA was a good first step, paid leave is essential to eliminate the perfect storm of lost wages and medical bills, leading to bankruptcy.  We thank the Committee for their support.” – Lauren Agoratus, State Coordinator    

Main Street Alliance:    

"On behalf of Main Street Alliance small businesses leaders, we are sending a huge thank you to Chairman Neal and the Ways and Means Committee, who are leading the way with the inclusion of a robust paid family and medical leave program. Small businesses are demanding programs, like paid leave, that will help ease the burden of high costs on working families, and support entrepreneurs. An investment in our overall care economy is an investment in small businesses and our local community, and we thank the Ways and Means Committee for taking this seriously and moving this critical legislation forward." – Chanda Causer and Stephen Michael, Co-Executive Directors

MetLife:

“MetLife applauds the introduction of Subtitle A – Universal Paid Family and Medical Leave and supports its enactment. We believe that this bill would help increase families’ financial security and well-being by ensuring more Americans are able to maintain some of their income during life’s most challenging and precious moments – from caring for a newborn or newly adopted or fostered child to addressing serious personal or family health issues…We cannot build a more confident future when that future is at risk from a lack of important income replacement for workers who need time off to care for themselves or a loved one. That is why our company has long supported the goal of providing universal paid leave for all Americans…MetLife appreciates the paid leave legislation’s recognition of the advantages of a public and private partnership with employers, employees, and benefits providers to increase access paid leave. We look forward to continuing to partner with Congress to help eliminate the paid leave gap in the U.S.”

Momsrising:

Thursday’s House Ways & Means Committee mark-up will be a significant and welcome milestone on the road to paid leave for all working people in this country. Chairman Richard Neal has been a fierce, powerful champion for the care infrastructure our country, our families, our business, and our economy need. The bill being marked up this week is a smart, responsive policy that America’s moms applaud. During and after the pandemic, working people need paid leave so they can recover from illnesses and care for family members, or welcome a new baby, without sacrificing their financial security. A care infrastructure will lift our economy and businesses, as well as boost moms and families, and in particular women of color who continue to experience compounded economic and health harms due to structural racism.” – Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and CEO

NARAL Pro-Choice America:      

"The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recognized the importance of paid leave and the role it plays in improving the health of the pregnant/post-partum person and the new baby, reducing infant mortality, and strengthening the parent-child bond. Yet, because the United States currently lacks a national paid family leave program, one in four women returns to work less than 10 days after giving birth. Furthermore, under our current system in which workers are at the mercy of employer policies or state laws, Black and Hispanic employees are less likely to be eligible for paid leave programs than white workers. These disparities further entrench income inequality and contribute to disproportionate maternal mortality rates...All people deserve the freedom to nurture their children and care for themselves and their family members without the fear of financial instability. It is time to ensure that all working families have the freedom to care for their loved ones. NARAL strongly supports the creation of a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program and urges lawmakers to pass such a bill."

National Partnership for Women & Families:    

“Thanks to the work of Chairman Neal and the House Ways & Means Committee, we are incredibly close to passing a universal, comprehensive and equitable paid leave law that would allow people the time and pay to care for both their children and elderly loved ones. The National Partnership for Women & Families has been working toward this for 28 years – and commends the committee for their work to move this forward the past few years. Without paid family and medical leave, the country would lose out on $650 billion a year in spending from working women – that’s far more than the cost of paying for this program. We must not waste this opportunity and must come together for women, their families, and the future of this country before it’s too late.” – Debra Ness, President

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice:

“NETWORK Lobby applauds the House Ways and Means Committee’s prioritization and dedication to a comprehensive national family and medical leave program. The need for universal paid leave that is inclusive and values the lives and dignity of workers is long overdue. We thank Chairman Neal for his leadership in protecting the needs and interests of working families in his legislation. Establishing a paid family and medical leave program is a necessary part of creating an equitable health and economic system. Now is the time to care for our neighbors as we care for our own families. Paid leave is critical to ensuring a racially just community that promotes public health and familial care. We urge the committee and all members of congress to support this opportunity to help families during their times of need.” – Laura Peralta-Schulte, Chief Lobbyist  

Paid Leave for All:

“This week, the House Ways & Means Committee takes a historic step in marking up a long-awaited national paid family and medical leave policy. We applaud the committee and Chairman Neal for his vision and leadership in seizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a robust investment in paid leave for American families. Passing paid leave and care policies won’t just make us more resilient and equitable, it would also yield millions of jobs, billions in wages, and trillions in GDP. No American should have to choose between their family or their health and a paycheck, and a national paid leave policy will be a major victory and legacy for the members of Congress who champion it.” – Dawn Huckelbridge, Director

Paid Leave for All:         

“Chairman Neal’s decision to prioritize comprehensive, meaningful paid family and medical leave in his Build Back Better Act is a testament to the fact that people’s need for paid leave to care for themselves or a loved one is universal, but workers’ access is scarce and uneven. People with the greatest need to provide or receive care often have the least access and are forced to take the greatest health and economic risks. Thanks to the decades-long work of advocates, lawmakers and researchers across the country, the evidence about paid leave’s value—to individuals, families, businesses and the economy—is clear. I hope this week’s markup puts the United States squarely on the path to becoming a country that guarantees paid leave for all.” – Vicki Shabo, Senior Fellow for Paid Leave Policy and Strategy, New America and Advisory Board Member

Paid Leave for the U.S. (PL+US):             

“Thanks to the House Ways and Means Committee and its visionary Chairman Richie Neal, with Thursday’s scheduled mark up of a national paid family and medical leave policy our country is closer than ever to ensuring that no working person has to choose between their paycheck and their health or caring for a loved one.  National paid leave policy will not only save lives and strengthen families; it will create jobs, boost wages, bolster small businesses, and facilitate long-term economic growth.  With Chairman Neal and the House Ways and Means Committee championing a bold plan that will provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at the launch of this critical round of budget negotiations, we’re more confident than ever that Congress is ready to pass historic legislation that will guarantee that all working people can be there for their families during life’s most important moments.” – Molly Day, Executive Director

PL+US: Paid Leave for the United States:           

"There is broad support from the business community for paid leave. A recently released report 8 from PL+US (Paid Leave for the U.S.) and Promundo, in collaboration with the Parental Leave Corporate Task Force, found that over 75 percent of companies believed a national paid leave policy would better position them to weather public health emergencies and economic crises. In recent months, hundreds of brands and business leaders 9 have publicly advocated for a comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy to be included in federal legislation focused on securing the nation’s post-pandemic economic recovery and long-term economic growth. Access to paid leave leads to better retention, personal health, and improved morale, which contributes to greater stability and viability for our businesses, ultimately helping our bottom line. In short, paid leave is good for business."

Prudential:       

"Prudential supports a comprehensive, affordable, and accessible federal paid family and medical leave program. Just under half of full-time workers have access to employer provided paid medical leave if they become disabled. The other half doesn’t have access to this critical coverage and far fewer have access to paid leave if caring for a family member. If we have learned anything through our shared and continuing pandemic experience, it’s that PFML is critical to allow workers to remain at home to care for themselves or a family member if they become ill...Prudential greatly appreciates Subtitle A’s recognition of the positive benefits of that partnership between employers, employees, and benefits providers.” – John J. Kalamarides, President

SPAN Parent Advocacy Network:

“SPAN Parent Advocacy Network expresses our thanks to the Ways and Means Committee and Chairman Neal for moving forward with national paid leave.  SPAN’s foremost commitment is to children and families with the greatest need due to disability or special health/mental health needs; poverty; discrimination based on race/ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, language, immigrant or homeless status; involvement in the child welfare or juvenile justice systems; geographic location; or other special circumstances.  We appreciate that this paid leave framework is inclusive of all families.  We thank the Committee for moving this forward.” – Diana Autin, Executive Director             

Sun Life:            

"The industry has also worked closely with states as they have developed PFML programs. Today, in states that have created PFML programs, our industry provides employers with the flexibility to offer customized plans that are equal to or greater than the statutory requirements. All families in America deserve critical PFML benefits. We applaud your national PFML proposal, which would cover every American worker and continue to provide employers with choice in how to deliver these benefits.” – Dan Fishbein, M.D., President

TIME’S UP NOW:

“A strong paid leave program could have helped stem the economic fallout of women leaving the labor force due to caregiving needs. Our country’s caregiving crisis was exacerbated — but not created — by COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, when a caregiving need arose, working women, especially Black and Latinx women, faced impossible choices between caring for themselves or loved ones and making ends meet…TIME’S UP NOW commends the Chairman and committee members for seizing this unprecedented moment to support caregiving, caregivers and economic growth. We look forward to working with you.”—Latifa Lyles, Vice President, Advocacy and Survivor Initiatives

The Paid Leave Alliance for Dementia Caregivers Convened by UsAgainstAlzheimer's:

“We applaud Ways & Means and Congressional leadership for including a universal, national paid family and medical leave policy in legislation introduced this week. If enacted into law, this would be an historic step forward in advancing economic and racial justice for family caregivers. The bill’s provision of twelve weeks of paid leave could help millions of Americans who are struggling to provide care for a family member living with dementia while balancing work, other family obligations and financial challenges." – Stephanie Monroe & Jason Resendez, Co-Directors

Western New England University, College of Business:          

"The proposal you have put forward to establish a permanent, national paid leave program that would guarantee working people up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, with meaningful wage replacement, for the serious health and caregiving needs established by the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act would be transformational. Your proposal is strong, inclusive and robust. It recognizes the leadership of states like Massachusetts and the innovations of leading employers, while also establishing a national baseline benefit for all workers and their families. Paid leave is an urgently-needed workforce, business and economic imperative. Passing a national paid leave program must be a congressional priority this year."

Women Effect Action Fund:      

“Chairman Neal and the House Ways and Means Committee have made it clear that they are putting the needs of American families first. For decades, families have been forced to construct a house of cards to meet the demands of work and caring for themselves and their loved ones. I’m thrilled that these lawmakers are leading the fight to deliver some much needed support to families, in the form of an inclusive, national paid leave program.” – Lisa Guide, Co-Founder

ZERO TO THREE:            

“We are immensely grateful to Chairman Neal and the Ways and Means Committee for taking bold action for babies and families to provide unhurried time to forge the bonds that profoundly affect how babies develop. For decades, families have had to rely on half measures, taking unpaid time off to care for their children. Families need a comprehensive, national paid leave policy – at least 12 weeks – that promotes bonding between parents and babies and enables workers to care for their own and family members’ extended health needs. We appreciate the Chairman and Committee’s commitment to answering the call from parents across the country, who have been forced for too long to make the impossible decision between caring for family members and their financial security. We strongly urge the House to approve this proposal with robust funding and send it to the Senate to finally pass paid family and medical leave for all without delay. America’s families – and babies – have waited long enough.” – Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer

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