FAMILY Act Meets the Moment by Providing Critical Support to Struggling Families

Washington, DC, February 5, 2021—Today, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would establish a federal program providing almost every worker in the country up to 12 weeks of paid leave to treat their own serious illness, care for a seriously ill family member, or bond with a new child. As the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare, ensuring this critical support for America’s working families is long overdue.

The pandemic continues to devastate communities across the country, but it didn’t have to be this way. A strong paid leave program could have helped prevent the spread of contagion and stem the economic fallout of women—predominantly women of color—leaving the labor force due to caregiving needs. Our country’s caregiving crisis was exacerbated—but not created—by COVID-19. The vast majority (92 percent) of workers earning low wages have no access to paid family leave. And Black and Latinx workers are less likely to have access to paid leave than their white counterparts. Even before the pandemic, when a caregiving need arose, these workers faced impossible choices between caring for themselves or loved ones and putting food on the table or making rent.

“The FAMILY Act provides a critical work support for all workers and is particularly game-changing for workers with low incomes and workers of color. The FAMILY Act will help address the economic and health crises that have devastated communities of color and that will be a step toward tackling the long, deeply painful history of systemic racism,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

The lack of a federal paid leave program made our economy more susceptible to the illness, death, and economic devastation of the pandemic. Although Congress enacted emergency paid leave provisions last spring in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Act, policymakers allowed the obligation to provide leave to expire at the end of 2020, leaving 106 million workers who gained access to paid leave without any protections. As the country continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, reinstating emergency leave is critical—yet, only a permanent program, like the FAMILY Act can ensure families’ health and economic security to face the next crisis.

As COVID-19 has exposed the challenges for workers in jobs paying low wages, now is the moment for bold investment in workers’ and families’ health and economic security so struggling families can heal from the devastation of the last 11 months and our country can emerge stronger.

“CLASP applauds the co-sponsors of the FAMILY Act for acting with both urgency and boldness to overcome the crisis and move the nation forward. The new Congress must prioritize the needs of people with low incomes and people of color. We urge full committee consideration of this bill that will ensure families—especially those earning low wages—are able to recover from the devastation of the pandemic and create a stronger, more resilient economy to withstand future shocks,” said Golden.