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Senators Murray and Gillibrand: We Need Paid Leave Now

(Washington, DC)— Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), lead sponsor of the FAMILY Act, released the following statement ahead of the 29th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) being signed into law.


“Twenty-nine years ago Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act—a groundbreaking law that helped many working people care for themselves and their families. But the FMLA only provides unpaid leave, and even then it was just a first step.


“Today—nearly three decades later—we have yet to take the next step: passing a comprehensive national paid family and medical leave program and guaranteeing paid sick days. Today, we’re the only country in the developed world where new parents don’t have time to recover from birth, bond with their newborn, or welcome a new child to their family. American parents still can’t take paid time to care for a seriously ill child. Patients can’t take paid time to recover from surgery or cope with a cancer diagnosis. And workers with a cold, the flu, or even COVID-19, can’t take the time to get well and keep their coworkers safe—because they would risk losing a paycheck or even their job.


“All of this isn’t just hurting families—it’s also hurting our economy, and it’s hurting our ability to fight this pandemic. If we want to stop the spread of Omicron, be ready for whatever this pandemic brings next, and prepare for future public health crises—then we need paid leave. If we want the United States to be a country where workers aren’t punished for trying to take care of themselves and their loved ones, then we need paid leave.


“That’s exactly what we do want and the vast majority of Americans agree—the call for paid leave has never been clearer or louder from all corners of our country.


“We hear the call for paid leave loud and clear, and we are making sure it is heard in Congress too. We are exploring every possible path to make progress on paid leave this Congress. We urge our colleagues—including nearly all of our Republican colleagues, who voted just two years ago to pass emergency paid leave in the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act—to listen to their constituents and work with us to deliver on paid leave.”


Federal paid leave is overwhelmingly popular in the United States. Recent polling has shown that 84 percent of likely voters, including 74 percent of Republicans, support paid leave programs.


Paid leave has also been proven to help slow the spread of COVID-19, with a study showing that the bipartisan emergency paid leave included in the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) reduced COVID infections by about 15,000 per day across the country. Paid leave also impacts vaccination rates, with a study showing workers are more likely to get vaccinated if their employer gives them paid time off to get an appointment and deal with side effects.