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Paid-Leave Advocates Look to New Administration for Relief

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Jessica Shamout, a working mom from Pasadena, is advocating for a national paid-leave program. (Jessica Shamout)
Jessica Shamout, a working mom from Pasadena, is advocating for a national paid-leave program. (Jessica Shamout)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
November 19, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- As the Biden administration prepares to take power, advocates for working families are pressing for a national paid-leave program.

Today, California Congresswoman Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, is holding a virtual roundtable open to the public with experts on paid leave, families and small business.

One of the speakers, working mom Jessica Shamout, said her former coworkers gave her a hard time when she took 12 weeks of paid leave at full salary after the birth of her daughter, even though she had negotiated it into her contract.

"This should be the norm, that people are taking time and making their family a priority," Shamout contended. "This should not be shameful to ask for. You shouldn't have to feel like you're gaming the system."

Nationwide, most low-wage employees don't have access to paid leave. California is one of nine states to offer such a program, and it only pays 60 to 70% of people's weekly salary. The state deducts a portion of workers' paychecks to pay for it.

The roundtable event takes place at 11:00 a.m. today on Facebook live.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid-leave program.

Bridget Shea, campaign manager for a nonprofit called Paid Leave for the United States, said the issue is especially important in 2020 and beyond.

"You know, we have record numbers of women leaving the workforce, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again, we're in an economic downturn," Shea observed. "So the need for paid leave, paid sick days, affordable child care and financial support for caregivers has never been greater."

Congress is considering two bills that would address the matter.

The Family Act would establish a national program offering 12 weeks of paid leave.

And the HEROES Act, currently stalled in the U.S. Senate, would increase coronavirus relief and close loopholes on paid leave.

Disclosure: Paid Leave for the U.S. (PL+US) contributes to our fund for reporting on Early Childhood Education, Family/Father Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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