As our country and state grapple with the economic aftermath of COVID-19 and businesses everywhere look for creative ways to encourage recovery, there is one universal constant for providing families with financial security. Paid family leave is a common sense answer to giving families the time and resources they need, all while maintaining a fiscally responsible alternative to safety net programs.
As we work through the reduced hours, layoffs and furloughs from COVID-19, promoting paid family leave as a solution is a cost-saving no-brainer. Using the numbers from the recent Families First Coronavirus Response Act, supporting parents and caretakers with paid family leave instead of Washington-run government assistance would save taxpayers over $1 trillion. Additionally, employees have the opportunity to stay with their employers with the confidence that they can return to work — without the worry of layoffs or furlough.
In a time when so many families have had to make the difficult decision between paying for childcare or leaving the work force, paid family leave eases that burden. We need parents in the work force, mothers particularly. In March 2021, almost 1.5 million fewer moms of school-aged children were actively working in February 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Right now, the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that 40% of households with children have mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income.
A stable solution like paid family leave keeps those women in the work force without pushing them out or onto costly government programs. According to a Rutgers University study, women who return to work after taking paid leave are 39% less likely to go on public assistance and 40% less likely to go on food assistance the following year. Women overwhelmingly outlive men and make household spending decisions. So much economic power lies in the hands of our female workforce — we need commonsense solutions to keep women workers uplifted and employed.
One leader who understands the dire necessity of paid family leave is U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. Sen. Capito introduced legislation that would provide resources to pay for leave and cover the cost of day care, baby supplies and other expenses associated with a new child. Her proposal goes a step further by protecting remote working parents’ rights and allows teleworkers the option to access child care benefits while working from home. Sen. Capito understands that if we want our West Virginia economy to bounce back and come out of this pandemic stronger than ever, we need to invest in our work force.
Paid family leave is not a partisan issue. It is not a social issue. It is an economic issue. Sen. Capito’s past efforts have brought light to the issue, and now is the time to work in a bipartisan manner to see this important legislative agenda item proposed by President Trump’s administration and supported by President Biden across the finish lines.