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Legislative Priorities for the 117th Congress: A Blueprint for Supporting Working Families

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January 15, 2021

Dear Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, President-Elect Biden Transition Team, Senators and Representatives,

A Better Balance is a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization that uses the power of the law to advance justice for workers, so they can care for themselves and their loved ones without jeopardizing their economic security. Since our founding, A Better Balance’s mission has been to address the care crisis, advancing policies to support working families at the local, state and federal levels.

Thanks to those efforts, we now have 9 states and D.C. with paid family and medical leave laws, 15 states and 23 localities with paid sick time laws, and 30 states and D.C. have stronger protections for workers in need of pregnancy accommodations. Our work is rooted not only in our policy expertise but also our direct legal services. Through our free work-family legal helpline, we assist thousands of workers each year who are facing economic insecurity and struggling to care for themselves and their loved ones. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the urgent need for these policies, as these measures are critical to protecting the health of workers and the wider public.

Congress and the Administration have the power and responsibility to end this country’s care crisis. Policies that support working families are not simply economic policies—they are policies that further racial, gender, and economic justice. Women are continuously being knocked down the economic ladder because of their caregiving responsibilities, and women of color far more so. In September 2020, 865,000 women—disproportionately women of color—left the labor force. In December, the U.S. lost another 140,000 jobs, nearly all of them occupied by women of color working in inflexible industries. Women were also twice as likely as men to report leaving work due to caregiving responsibilities. When women leave the workforce, the economy suffers as women’s labor force participation is a key driver of economic growth and expansion.

Access to work-family policies is also highly unequal, with higher income workers much more likely to have access to paid family and medical leave and paid sick time and lower-income, disproportionately workers of color, far less so. Furthermore, independent contractors and freelancers as well as workers with historically few labor protections such as farmworkers and domestic workers also lack access to critical supports.

Our top line priorities for the 117th Congress include:

  • Extending the emergency paid leave provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act through the end of 2021 and expanding emergency paid leave use to include caring for yourself or a loved one with COVID-19, and closing the statutory loopholes that exempt millions of workers from these protections.
  • Passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to ensure no pregnant worker has to choose between their job and a healthy pregnancy.
  • Passing the Healthy Families Act to guarantee paid sick time regardless of employer size.
  • Passing a permanent comprehensive and inclusive paid family and medical leave law.
  • Providing at least $57 billion to stabilize the child care industry during the COVID-19 pandemic and investing in a permanent affordable, accessible, and equitable child care infrastructure.

As families struggle to make ends meet, care for themselves or ailing loved ones, and put food on the table, this country needs transformative policy solutions that will allow them to meet the crushing demands of work and care. Below are specific proposals A Better Balance urges the Congress and the new Administration to prioritize to end the care crisis, support working families, and create more just and fair workplaces.

Sincerely,

Dina Bakst & Sherry Leiwant           

Co-Founder & Co-Presidents    

Full PDF of the Blueprint is below.            

ABetterBalance_FederalLegislativeAgenda_2021

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