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Push for paid leave and affordable child care picks up steam

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The national movement to provide American workers with access to paid leave and affordable child care continues to gain momentum. Last week, the city of Asheville joined a long and growing list of municipalities when its city council voted to adopt a paid parental and family leave policy for city employees.

As Vicki Meath of the group Just Economics told WLOS TV, “It’s going to have a big impact on employees that work for the city of Asheville, and it says a lot to employers in the region about how to provide family-friendly workplace policies.”

Asheville’s action comes at the same time that the Biden-Harris administration is renewing a similar push on the national level. In a recent briefing, White House advisors, Cedric Richmond and Cecilia Rouse, discussed the effort to expand access to paid leave and child care, through the administration’s American Families Plan.  

“It only enhances what local governments have been trying to create for a long time,” said Richmond. “These are things that would empower communities and be transformational.” 

Rouse, who serves as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, outlined the importance of supporting working people in providing care for their loved ones, with a focus on the idea that the labor market needs an engaged, effective public sector. This, she noted, requires an investment in human capital so people can launch new businesses and workers to find good, safe, well-paying jobs.  

“Overall, this plan would be beneficial to both small and large businesses,” Rouse said. The intention is on helping businesses succeed and thrive by “supporting employees during the most trying times.” She emphasized how the plan would address equity, while maintaining small business support. 

Paid leave 

The paid leave provisions and investments in the American Families Plan are premised on the idea of building a healthier, stronger American workforce. The AFP aims to support parents and their children so parents can, if the desire, participate more fully in the labor force. In so doing, the administration echoes the longstanding arguments of worker advocates that this will help parents, especially women, who have had to reduce work hours to prioritize caregiving and family needs. The idea, say administration officials, is that no American should have to choose between their livelihood and caring for themselves or those they love. The proposal would also address leave related to military deployments, parental needs, and bereavement.  

The administration’s position is backed by research which shows employers are more likely to maintain a stable and highly qualified workforce if this benefit is available. In other words, what’s good for workers is better for business and boosting economic growth. The AFP also extends key tax credits that are provided to businesses that offer paid leave. These investments will narrow racial disparities for Black and Latinx kids and have a positive impact on child poverty as well. 

Early childhood and educational investments  

The Biden-Harris plan would also dramatically improve opportunities for early childhood and advanced education by expanding the current national guarantee of free K-12 education to include universal preschool and two years of community college, along with a boost to federal Pell Grants.

The plan’s simple and common sense premise: By expanding access to free education, we help build a stronger, more resilient middle class and a workforce that’s ready to meet the demands of today’s economy.  

For more information : 

Lindsay Saunders works with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project, which has long championed these and other similar investments to help build and sustain a just economy.

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