I want to begin by thanking Main Street Alliance for hosting today’s press conference on a topic near and dear to my heart. It’s an honor to say a few words and to put my full support behind this effort to make paid family and medical leave available to all Vermonters.
I also want to recognize all of the Vermonters featured in today’s video for your courage in sharing your story and for your leadership in turning your personal experience into action.
Sometimes it can be hard, unless you’ve had a personal experience, to understand how deeply important paid family and medical leave can be to one’s own economic security and well-being.
For anyone who has navigated a family medical crisis, caregiving, pregnancy, a miscarriage or caring for a newborn, the need for paid family and medical leave is palpable, it is visceral, and is so deeply obvious, and particularly here in Vermont.
I will never forget when my mother got sick and was hospitalized in March of 2019. I was working as an Assistant Attorney General during the day and teaching law classes at night in order to make enough money to pay my student loans and my rent. When my mom was hospitalized, I used up all my accrued vacation and sick leave (which wasn’t much) to be at the hospital helping my family navigate the medical emergency. As I ran out of paid leave, I began to wonder, what would happen if I had to take unpaid leave…how long would it be before I couldn’t make my rent, or my student loans or worse, would I have to leave my job all together.
My story is not unique. Long before the pandemic Vermont women and caregivers were finding themselves in the position of having to make tough decisions between caring for loved ones and paying the bills. As we know, the pandemic exacerbated everything.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, between February 2020 and February 2021, 2.3 million women completely left the workforce in the United States. Here in Vermont and across the nation, one dominant reason for this was childcare and dependent caregiving.
According to data released by the Biden Administration, this pandemic set back 30 years of progress of women in the workforce and has meant $64 billion in lost wages and economic activity.
I want to talk about Vermont specifically and what makes the lack of paid family and medical leave so harmful to our state, and similarly situated states:
We are one of the oldest states in the nation;
We face a persistent demographic crisis;
Our workforce continues to shrink, as does our revenue from people leaving the workforce;
We have more deaths than births in a majority of Vermont counties; and
We have a sandwich generation. A generation that is both caring for a parent and children at the same time.
Add-on student debt, mortgage or rental payments, childcare costs and this generation is in crisis.
Simply put, our families, communities, employers and economy lose when women and caregivers leave the workforce. We can’t afford it.
A stronger recovery means long overdue investments in a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy that ensures no Vermonter has to choose between caring for loved ones and paying the bills.
Our Congressional delegation has my full support in getting the American Families Plan over the line, and Vermonters can count on me to do all I can to bring paid family and medical leave to our families and communities.
Thank you again for having me.”