America's Lack of Paid Parental Leave Is a 'Travesty': Florida Congresswoman

May 13, 2019

By Justin Chermol

The lack of guaranteed paid parental leave in the U.S. is a "travesty," Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy said a day after families across the country celebrated Mother's Day.

"I remember I was a young mom and pursuing an exciting job opportunity, and I asked them 'what's your family leave?'" Rep. Murphy (D-Fla.) told Cheddar. "And they said 'oh ー you can take 12 weeks unpaid.'"

Murphy, who now has two children, is working to pass a piece of legislation through the House Ways and Means Committee on paid family and medical leave. The committee held a hearing on the issue last week.

"For middle-class workers, especially those on the lower end of the pay scale, taking unpaid leave makes it impossible to make ends meet," Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who chairs the committee, said at the hearing.

Currently, paid family leave policy is determined by state governments, making the U.S. an outlier among industrialized countries, remaining the only one without a nationwide guarantee.

"Since I live in Florida, we didn't have a state family leave policy, and I couldn't afford to be taking care of a newborn and going unpaid for three months," Murphy said. "I think it's a real travesty that as the wealthiest nation in the world, we are the only industrialized nation without a paid family leave policy."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, paid leave is available to only 17 percent of workers through their employer. Unpaid parental leave is also an option, available to 59 percent of workers under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, but for many moms, the option is not affordable.

Across the aisle, Republicans have taken another approach to the issue. In March, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the Cradle Act, which would let workers access some of their Social Security retirement income to make up for some of the wages lost when taking parental leave.

"We really shouldn't be forcing people to raid their retirement funding, or retirement savings, in order to pay for emergency situations when they need to take care of their parents or their children," Murphy said in response to the Republican legislation.

For full interview click here.

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