As our country begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, our government needs to take big steps to help our Arizonan families stand back up stronger than ever while also ensuring our economy doesn’t falter and leave families out in the cold.
It has never made sense that a worker needs to go into work when sick, that a new parent needs to leave a newborn to return to work, that a son can’t take care of an older mother who is sick. We have the opportunity to finally change that and pass a national paid leave policy.
Even before the pandemic exacerbated the failures of not having a paid leave policy, most Arizonans couldn’t even access unpaid family leave at their jobs. That leaves working families behind — for some it means they are unable to pay rent, make car payments, afford an education or put food on the table. That’s simply unacceptable.
That’s why I introduced HB 2756. It’s time for our state’s laws to reflect our state’s workers’ needs. We need a sustainable paid leave policy in place so that families and businesses are never scrambling for piecemeal solutions when illness strikes, a serious family caregiving need arises, or a new child is born or adopted. And now, President Biden has proposed a paid family and medical leave plan so you can access these protections no matter where you live or who you work for.
Too often, women are held back when a family needs help. Taking them out of the workplace has ripples across the economy, as we’ve seen over the past year.
In Arizona, women make up 47% of the workforce and 28% of small-business owners. Those women’s wages support their households, with 73% of Black mothers, 46% of white mothers, 49% of Latina mothers and 45% of AAPI mothers being their family’s breadwinner. By the end of 2020, Arizona’s labor force had lost 19,000 workers, and nearly five times as many women were unemployed compared to one year earlier.
Paid leave and care policies have the potential to help the economy grow as much as 5% by bringing women’s labor force participation rates in the United States up to levels in other countries. Without paid leave, we’re leaving a chunk of the economy on the table.
Arizona also has an aging population — 1 in 5 workers is at least 55 years old. Older workers naturally need more medical care and have more serious issues arise. If our state continues to fail to prescribe policy to help them, these older workers and their families continue to suffer at a growing rate.
I represent one of the most impoverished districts in the state of Arizona. My constituents have not had the luxury of staying home and working virtually, because they are essential workers. They work in warehouses, construction, landscaping. They are the reason why our economy has stayed afloat during the pandemic.
A lack of paid leave policy reflects a lack of recognizing a worker’s humanity. Without planning for the reality that workers will get sick, need to care for an ill family member or have a child, our government is both failing Arizona families and businesses. Enacting such policy lets families, businesses and the economy as a whole have a realistic plan in place to catch workers and their families.
Enacting paid leave boosts our families and boosts our economy. In Arizona, we have the chance to push for a national paid leave policy that helps Arizonans and all Americans so that a new child, an ailing parent or finding yourself ill doesn’t put your livelihood on the line.