An analysis of demographic data in Virginia released today by the National Partnership for Women & Families demonstrates the urgent need for a national paid family and medical leave plan. A comprehensive and inclusive paid leave plan must allow every American worker to take time off work to address an illness or to take care of a loved one, without missing a paycheck.
The new Virginia analysis sheds light on the gaps in access to paid family and medical leave.
- Lack of Access to Paid and Unpaid Family and Medical Leave: Unpaid leave through the FMLA is inaccessible to 55 percent of workers in Virginia because they either are not covered by the law or cannot afford to take the unpaid leave provided;
- Without Access to Paid Leave, Women and People Of Color Are Leaving the Workforce: Women, especially Black, Latinx, AAPI and Native American mothers, have been hit the hardest by pandemic closures. Women of color work in many of the most-affected industries and are bearing the brunt of increased caregiving without the support of in-person schooling or child care. In Virginia, nearly eight times as many women were unemployed at the end of 2020 as one year earlier.
- Paid Leave is Good for the Economy: A national paid leave plan would reduce the number of working families in Virginia facing significant economic insecurity when they need to take family and medical leave by 83 percent.
- Paid Leave is Good for Public Health: More than 418,000 Virginians, contracted COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic. Moreover, an estimated 10 to 15 percent – 41,800 to 62,700 – will experience long-term symptoms including difficulty breathing, chest pain or fatigue that may require care from a loved one or interfere with work. Paid leave allows people to take time off work to care for themselves and their family members during the pandemic and beyond.
“Even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge, millions of Americans across the country risk missing a paycheck if they need to take time off work to care for themselves or a loved one.” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The pandemic has exacerbated the inequities across our economy that disproportionately impact women and people of color, who are least likely to have access to paid family and medical leave. As Americans continue to struggle with the impact of the pandemic, Congress must prioritize enacting emergency paid family and medical leave in the short term, as a down payment for a national program in the future.”
The state-by-state analysis comes after the emergency paid leave provisions that were enacted as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and amended by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act expired at the end of last year.
Momentum is growing in support of enacting paid family and medical leave with President Biden including expanded emergency paid family and medical leave in the American Rescue Plan. In addition to the federal emergency paid family and medical leave policy that was enacted in 2020, Colorado voters supported a ballot initiative that provides paid family and medical leave of up to 12 weeks for all workers in the state- bringing the total number of states with paid family and medical leave to 10, including Washington, D.C. Importantly, paid leave is supported by voters across the political spectrum as well as the majority of small businesses.