Marilyn Watkins: Family and medical leave is more important now than ever

Testimony of Marilyn Watkins before the Washington State House Appropriations Committee on HB 2044, April 22, 2013

Good morning, I’m Marilyn Watkins of the Economic Opportunity Institute, also speaking also for the Washington Work and Family Coalition, which worked with members of this body to pass family and medical leave insurance in 2007.

Since the onset of the Great Recession, given the seriousness of the budget crises of the past several years, our coalition has reluctantly supported delaying implementation of family leave insurance.

But the need for this program has not diminished. 280,000 babies have been born in our state since Oct 2009. Every one of them deserved to start life with all the advantages of loving care by their parents. No parent should be forced to choose between nurturing their newborn child or keeping a roof over the family’s head.

Our senior population, and the need for long term care services, are also rapidly increasing.

Investing in our youngest children and supporting families caring for aging parents through implementing a full family and medical leave insurance program will ultimately save the state money. It will improve education and health outcomes, and bolster our state economy.

In policy committee we heard from small business owners like Don Orange from Vancouver and Consuelo Gomez from Bellevue whose businesses and employees would benefit from FMLI. We heard testimony from a father whose little daughter spent the first 6 months of her life at Children’s Hospital, and from a woman whose father is postponing the surgery he needs to save his kidneys because he doesn’t have enough sick time saved up to recover from surgery.

The family and medical leave insurance program is currently scheduled to begin during the 2015-17 biennium, so the state is under no obligation to spend money in the coming biennium, whether or not this bill passes.

Looking ahead to future state budgets, the fiscally responsible course would be to fund and implement a full family and medical leave insurance program, as Representative Green’s bill (1457) would do. We look forward to working with you to get the job done.

Thank you.

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