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WA paid family and medical leave bill moves one step closer to House vote

Proposal awaits vote after public hearing in House Appropriations Committee

newborn hands

Photo: Bridget Coila via Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 1116, which would create a comprehensive paid family and medical leave proposal for all working families.

Sponsored by Rep. June Robinson (D – Everett), HB 1116 is now awaiting a committee vote before it can move on to the House floor.

Robinson’s bill has received strong support from workers, business owners, health care experts, veteran and senior advocates, and women’s and community groups like the YWCAs of Washington and MomsRising.

“I’m humbled by the overwhelming support we’ve heard for paid family and medical leave over the last several weeks,” said Rep. Robinson. “Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard loud-and-clear from working moms and dads, small business owners and family doctors that it’s time for a comprehensive and affordable paid family and medical leave program in Washington.”

Robinson’s bill and its companion in the Senate (SB 5032) are the only proposals endorsed by the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, representing nearly 1,000 pediatricians across the state.

In yesterday’s hearing Dr. Robyn Rogers, a pediatric hospitalist at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, shared a story about a 15-month-old patient named Aiden and his mother Jordan. Aiden was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia – dehydrated, struggling to breathe and so lethargic he couldn’t sit up on his own.

Rogers said his mother was frightened, but not only of her son’s condition.

“‘I can’t miss work,’ she said. ‘If I miss work, I won’t get paid, and then I can’t pay the rent,'” Dr. Rogers told the committee.

Aiden later developed an abscess by his lung and ultimately had to go to the operating room to have it cleaned out. Very often during his two-week hospitalization, Aiden was alone.

“If your 15-month-old was sick, in pain, struggling to breathe, where would you want to be?” Rogers said. “You would want to be where Jordan wanted to be, with her child. Like many families I serve, Jordan could not be at her baby’s bedside. She had to choose between comforting her infant son and providing a roof over his head. Many families like Jordan and Aidan are living on a financial knife edge with no room to maneuver when their children become sick.”

HB 1116 would allow Washington workers to take up to 26 weeks for the birth of a new child or to take care of a sick family member, and up to 12 weeks for the worker’s own serious health condition. It would be funded by a modest payroll premium shared by the worker and employer – costing each about $2 a week for the typical Washington worker.

A recent poll showed at least 72% of Washington voters supported passing paid family and medical leave, and the Washington Work and Family Coalition is looking to the Legislature to act.

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