FINANCE

Granted family leave may become law. Families share what it means


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A new law proposal on Capitol Hill could give Congress a rare opportunity to address a problem that has long been in the back-burner – paid family vacation.

Today, only a handful of workers have time to retire to take care of their loved ones or their own medical needs.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed a national pay leave policy so that all workers can take time off work.

The Covid-1 pandemic epidemic has helped focus on the issue, which was incomplete by Congress from the Family and Medical Vacation Act of 1993 because workers were allowed to take unpaid leave for family or medical reasons.

In 2020, a temporary program was launched to compensate businesses for offering paid leave to employees during the epidemic.

Now, lawmakers are discussing more permanent policy terms, which could give workers up to 12 weeks off.

Advocates applauded the move, which would help the United States adapt to other industrialized nations.

“Paid leave is really a foundation policy,” said Molly Day, executive director of Paid Leave in the United States. “It returns women to work on the other side of the cove, ensuring that small businesses can attract and retain talent, and globally it actually makes us competitive.”

To be sure, paid family leave has been the subject of criticism, especially on how it will be paid and how it may affect the company’s existing policies.

However, families who were in need of serious care said that their lives would have been different if they had received paid family leave when they needed it.

Tough choice

Ashton Dargenzio, pictured with her daughter, did not have access to maternity leave granted after delivery.

When Ashton Dargenzio, 29, of Pittsburgh, gave birth to her 18-month-old daughter, she faced a difficult decision to take unpaid maternity leave or continue working so she could pay her bills.

“Because I’m an unmarried mother, I really had no choice,” she said.

The situation was complicated by the fact that Darjeeling’s daughter went straight to the neonatal intensive care unit at birth.

Darjeeling, who had a C-section, could not stay in the hospital with his daughter because of Kovid-1to.

Instead, she would wake up every morning to go to the hospital and breastfeed her daughter, and then sit in a separate hospital room using and working the breast bump at the same time. Upon completion of his work, Darjeeling will be transferred to the hospital’s waiting room, where he will resettle his workplace.

Darjeeling is currently a contract worker in information technology, which requires constant problem solving and repair.

This schedule was her 12-week maternity leave.

“It was one of the most frustrating and stressful times of my life,” Darjeeling said.

“Not having a paid holiday experience has opened my eyes to how many people actually have to experience it,” he said.

Unfortunately for Darjeeling, the challenges of juggling work and caring for his daughter are expected to become more complex.

Because Dargenzio’s daughter has bilateral hip dysplasia, she has to have three surgeries. This will leave her with a throw from her waist to her toes and very limited mobility.

Darjeeling also hoped to take a week off for his daughter after her surgery. However, the full recovery time after each procedure is expected to be around six weeks.

The situation will be much easier if we enter into a pay-based leave policy, Darjeeling said.

Instead of thinking about how she is going to pay her rent and utility bills, she will be able to focus on her daughter’s needs.

“It would be huge to be able to wake up in the morning and just focus on my daughter and her care and her health and her needs,” Dargenzio said.

“No parent has to worry about that,” he said.

Different states

Adrian Streeter, pictured with her husband Douglas and two daughters, said she would have been a great help when she became a new mother if she had access to paid family vacations.

Source: Adrian Streeter

Adrian Strater, 5, returned to work 20 days after having an emergency c-section after giving birth to her first daughter.

The South Carolina start-up company where he worked at the time did not have a formal leave policy. However, he was able to get some flexibility about how many days he worked in the office each week.

Still, taking care of new additions to their family, a girl with special needs was “out of pressure” for Strait and her husband, she said.

Her daughter had to undergo surgery at 10 weeks of age, and then again at 18 months of age.

“There’s a famous Southern saying,‘ Don’t let God impose on you more than you can handle, ’Stratter said. “Well, that was a lie.”

Most of Stratter’s first pregnancy worries followed her when she became pregnant with her second child, a daughter, and contributed to postpartum depression.

However, since Strater and her husband Douglas moved to New York State from South Carolina, their experiences for the second time were much different.

Her husband was able to take four weeks off from his job to take care of her and the baby. At the time, he was still receiving his full salary.

“We haven’t lost a single rate from a financial standpoint,” Strater said.

Yet other families in the same situation may not be so lucky, he said.

Taking time out to look after her daughters has definitely affected her ability to work.

“My career is certainly not what I imagined at the age of 25,” Stratter said. “I know in the end I have two pretty healthy girls for whom I can do anything.”

Strater said she and her husband teach their daughters, now ages 7 and 5, that no one has the power to take away the choices available to them.

She said it takes time for parents to take care of their children, he said.

‘A huge step’

Megan Hebden, 37, was still a new mother when her 1-year-old daughter’s health problems began.

Violent convulsions lead to hospital stays and multiple follow-up doctor appointments.

Since then, Hebden’s daughter, now 11, has had periods for several years when she is healthy and free of convulsions, and others when she is in and out of the hospital every month. Three years ago, he almost died.

Health problems not only affect families living in the Austin area, but also financial problems.

Initially, Hebdon, who worked as a nurse practitioner at a clinic, was able to take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

“It was a huge financial burden for our family,” Hebden said.

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At that time, she had to decide between caring for her child properly and bringing income to the family. “It’s a tough choice,” Hebden said.

The rise and fall of her daughter’s health can also be seen in Hebden’s biography.

Despite being a self-described “yes person”, challenges inevitably arose that forced Hebdon to choose between family and work, especially when employers showed a lack of flexibility.

“If you look at my work history, you’ll probably think I’m an untrustworthy person,” Hebden said.

If a national salary allowance policy is introduced, Hebdon said he would be relieved, not just for his family, but other parents who are struggling with jobs, finances and care. He said the Kovid-1 pandemic epidemic has added to that difficulty.

“I still think there are more ways to change our social environment to support people with chronic illness or care, but I think it’s an important step, a huge step,” Hebden said.



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