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This Mother’s Day is like none we have ever quite experienced thanks to the coronavirus pandemic impacting lives around the planet. It finds many North Dakotans without a paycheck, threatened with loss of housing, anxious about their health care coverage, and worried about loved ones who are either sick with COVID-19 or susceptible to it.

The crisis has reminded all of us how uncertain life can be and just how important family is. We are also reminded that no family should have to choose between picking up a paycheck or caring for a sick child or elderly parent.

That is why the North Dakota Women’s Network has partnered with the North Dakota AFL-CIO to develop the United Together for Paid Family Leave Initiative. This initiative is part of the WE STAND Together coronavirus response plan put forward by a broad group of organizations which also addresses unemployment, eviction moratorium, worker safety, health insurance, access to food, state employees and higher education.

The Paid Family Leave Initiative is a common sense proposal that can help workers out when the unexpected happens. Unlike the unpaid Family Medical Leave Act, our plan would allow an employee to request paid leave to care for themselves or a family member when medical emergencies arise.

Paid family leave will also have a positive impact upon our local businesses. Currently, when an employee is forced to leave their job to care for a loved one or a new baby, they often take with them years of experience and training. Employers not only lose their financial investments in training that employee, they may damage company morale and weaken customer loyalty.

With paid family leave, local businesses would be better equipped to compete with much larger corporations that are already able to offer this benefit to their employees. These businesses would also reduce turnover, lower training costs, improve morale, and attract workers from outside North Dakota.

In light of the strain the pandemic has placed upon families and individuals, the federal government has implemented the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides qualified workers with paid sick time and family leave for taking care of yourself or family members with certain coronavirus-related reasons.

We are urging North Dakota legislators to take this a step further and implement permanent paid family leave legislation for North Dakota working families.

The proposal has been enacted in several states and enjoys overwhelming public support. Over 62,000 North Dakotans fill the role of caregiver to sick or elderly family members and almost three-fourths of the children in this state live in homes where both parents work. Clearly, these numbers show the time to act is now.

Supporting our Paid Family Leave Initiative will make businesses stronger, families healthier, and Moms happier. Let’s make this a memorable Mother’s Day by building a better future and supporting the Paid Family Leave Initiative.

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