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Witnesses Testify in Support of the Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act

Washington, D.C. (June 25, 2021)—Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a remote hearing on H.R. 564, the Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act. 

“If we have learned one thing today, it is that paid leave is not—as my Republican colleagues claim—‘a perk,’” Chairwoman Maloney said in her closing statement.  “Workers need paid leave to recover from serious illnesses, to take care of sick children, and to deal with the sudden military deployment of a family member.  Having a seriously ill child is not a perk.  Taking time to deal with active duty deployment is not a perk.  As our nation seeks to recover from the pandemic, permanent, comprehensive paid leave is essential to support workers and the families who depend on them.”

President Biden’s American Families Plan (AFP) recognizes that providing paid family and medical leave to American workers “is a critical investment in the strength and equity of our economy.”  Under H.R. 564, over 2.6 million federal workers across the country would be eligible to receive paid leave for all the purposes described in the AFP. 

The Committee heard testimony from Lelaine Bigelow, Vice President at the National Partnership for Women & Families; Everett Kelley, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (AFGE); Vicki Shabo, Senior Fellow for Paid Leave Policy and Strategy at the Better Life Lab at New America; Eric Sorkin, co-owner of Runamok Maple, a small business; and Hadley Heath Manning, Director of Policy at the Independent Women’s Forum. 

Witnesses called for Congress to pass legislation to provide all Americans, including the federal workforce, with comprehensive paid family and medical leave.

  • Mr. Kelley stated:  “No federal employee should ever have to choose between caring for a loved one and keeping his or her job.  I’ve heard countless stories from AFGE members who’ve had to make the choice between being able to support their families financially or supporting a loved one or taking care of themselves before they are ready to return to work.”
  • In response to a question from Rep. Peter Welch, Mr. Sorkin testified:  “It shouldn’t be about whether a worker is working for a company that can afford [paid leave] or not.  Irrespective of the fact that we feel like there’s a good return on investment, I don’t see the downside to having a national program that would help workers and would help [businesses] as well.” 

Witnesses cited the benefits of paid medical leave for employees and their families, small and large businesses, the federal government, and our nation’s economy.

  • In response to questioning from Rep. Katie Porter, Ms. Shabo said:  “Everybody is hurt by the lack of paid leave in this country, whether it’s you directly or the economy or a business.  This is not a nice-to-have, it’s not a frill.  It is a necessity for getting our economy back on track and creating households that are stable and secure going forward.”
  • In response to a question from Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Ms. Bigelow testified:  “Comprehensive paid leave improves health outcomes for those who need care and prevents people from having to make impossible choices between being there for their families…and their jobs and income.  As the population in the workforce…[is] aging, a comprehensive paid leave policy is just smart economics to ensure older workers can continue working and can manage work while caring for an aging parent or loved one.”

Witnesses testified that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to make access to paid leave for American workers permanent.

  • In response to a question from Rep. Jamie Raskin, Ms. Shabo testified:  “Congress was smart, at the beginning of the pandemic, to implement the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which … impacted the contagion of COVID-19 and is estimated to have prevented 15,000 COVID cases per day, nationwide.  But more than that, as we think about the need for paid family and medical leave, there are now untold numbers of long-haul COVID survivors.  About 25% of them are expected to have [long-term] symptoms.”
  • In response to a question from Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Mr. Sorkin stated:  “Looking back at COVID, it was really clear to us as a business that the first line of defense for employee safety, for all our safety, was to make sure folks who were sick or potentially exposed wouldn’t come in to work.  But the truth of it is, just asking employees to stay home without offering them pay is just preposterous.  You can’t expect a lower-wage employee to make that choice, so the [FFCRA] was really essential to us and a program like that, it’s just plain as day that we want to have safe communities and safe workplaces.”

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