Viewpoint: For a stronger Maine, paid leave is the solution 



By Rep. Genevieve McDonald 

As we attempt to turn the page on the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous issues have come to light that deserve immediate attention. One is the need for paid family and medical leave for Maine families.  

The pandemic has been challenging for everyone. Many families have had to make difficult decisions regarding child care, school, health care or taking care of a loved one who may have become sick. In some instances, working Mainers have needed to make the tough decision to leave their employment in order to take care of a loved one. 

This is an extremely difficult choice for people to make. These decisions unfairly affect women in the workforce compared to their male counterparts. In Maine, there is an 8 percent gap in labor force participation between men and women, in part because the United States lacks family-friendly policies. The effects of this are hurting the economy. In many instances, women have to make the impossible choice between their employment and their family. When women are forced out of employment, they are less likely to contribute to the economy or grow their wealth toward retirement. 

Fortunately, there could be help on the way. President Biden has proposed a paid leave policy that would guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave for personal medical leave or for caregivers who need to take time off work to care for their family members. With paid leave, people – especially women – won’t have to leave the labor force to care for their families or for themselves, reducing turnover for employers of all sizes and boosting the economy. This policy would relieve an unnecessary burden on Maine workers and allow them more flexibility when unexpected life or medical events happen. 

When people leave the workforce due to a lack of adequate family leave options, it can have adverse effects on employers as well. Not only are they losing an employee, but they also have to shoulder the burden of the cost to train someone new to do the job that was vacated. A universal paid family and medical leave program would help save employers money as well as retain the quality employees they hired in the first place. Employee turnover is stressful for small businesses and paid leave would help alleviate those stresses. Maine’s small business community would greatly benefit from the implementation of a national paid leave plan.  

Thankfully, we have Congressman Golden representing us in D.C. He understands the importance of spending quality time with family, himself being a new father. Members of Maine’s congressional delegation, including Congressman Golden, have an opportunity to support this important policy. Paid leave would reduce the number of working families in Maine facing significant economic insecurity when caregiving or medical needs arise by 79 percent. Considering how the past year of the pandemic has affected Maine’s workforce, it is crucial to pass this policy. We cannot afford to lose any more workers. 

Paid family and medical leave means a stronger economy, healthier families and businesses and greater equality for women and families. I strongly encourage Congressman Golden to support the paid leave proposal in the American Families Plan. 

 

Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington), House chair of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee and a member of the Marine Resources Committee, is serving her second term in the Maine House and represents the Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, North Haven, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Swan’s Island, Tremont and Vinalhaven. 

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