Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Selena Allen: The importance of family leave insurance for a new mom

Written testimony of Selena Allen

For SSB 5659

Family Leave is a very personal issue to me. When I discovered I was pregnant with my first child I had  just moved to Seattle to escape a bad relationship. Since I had only been with my employer for a few  months, I did not qualify for any paid leave nor did I qualify for unpaid maternity leave. My only choice  was to quit my job and collect welfare so I could take care of myself and my newborn child. After three  months I could no longer sustain myself and my child on the $540 I received from TANF and I had to  return to paid employment.

When I became pregnant with my second child I was fortunate enough to have some paid time off I  could use toward maternity leave and an employer who would allow me to take unpaid time off even  though I was not covered by FMLA. After carefully weighing our options, my husband and I decided  we could afford for me to take a total of four weeks of maternity leave. This meant saving all of the  health and vacation leave I would accumulate over the next nine months so I could have two and half  weeks of paid leave and cutting back expenses so we could afford to take another week and half off  unpaid.

Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. My son was born six weeks premature. I left work on  Wednesday, concerned over sudden pains, and on Thursday I had a tiny newborn baby in need of  intense medical care and several decisions to make. One of these decisions was when to take my  maternity leave. We now had accumulated less time off then we had planned and we had no idea when  Connor would be released from the hospital- it could be days, weeks or even months. There was no way  we could take any additional time off unpaid – money was already tight in spite of our two full time  jobs. We decided our best option was to wait until Connor came home. I gave birth on Thursday and  was back to work on Monday.

For the next three weeks, my days consisted of going to work, leaving early to drive from Kent to  Seattle, spending a few precious hours with my new baby, and then fighting rush hour traffic in order to  pick up my older son before the child care closed. I worked in the early childhood education field; I was  surrounded every day by the research citing how important those first days are for bonding and life long  learning. It broke my heart that I could not be with my son when he needed me so much. These were,  by far, the most difficult days of my entire life. If I could have had even $250 a week of replacement  wages I would have been able to be with my baby during this critical time.

It is society’s duty to protect and care of our most vulnerable: our children, the sick and the elderly.  Family and Medical Leave Insurance allows families to do just that- to take care of themselves and/or  their families when they are most needed. This is why I urge to vote yes on SSB 5659.

Selena Allen

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