Mainers should not have to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table and taking care of a sick loved one or newborn. There is currently a new bill being worked through the Maine Legislature that would allow up to 12 weeks of benefit with up to 90% of pay. For the wellbeing of all Mainers, this needs to be passed.
Maine seems to be behind the times with enacting paid family leave (PFL) given that all other New England states, aside from New Hampshire, currently offer paid family and medical leave. California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia also all offer PFL.
Maine currently only offers unpaid family leave as well as earned sick days for workers. Families have the benefit of being able to leave without worrying about losing their job, but this can hardly be called a benefit. Many workers don’t have the luxury to go even a couple weeks without being paid, forcing them to choose between their loved ones and being able to afford their basic human needs.
Offering PFL seems obvious to me. Not only does it benefit the upbringing of a child by being able to remain with their parents for a longer period after birth, but it also allows families the opportunity to take care of sick loved ones without having to worry about financial stress.
Many studies have been done in California on the benefits of PFL given that they enacted it nearly 20 years ago. Although a very different state than Maine, the benefits of PFL would still be the same.
“[T]he effects of paid parental leave during infancy — including lower prenatal stress levels, higher rates of breastfeeding, fewer infant hospitalizations, and increased parental involvement — can have lasting effects on children’s health,” one study says.
Not only does PFL positively impact the child, but it also benefits the health of the mother as well.
“[M]others who take paid family leave are less likely to experience symptoms of postpartum depression and less likely to report parenting stress,” another study found.
However, despite these clear benefits, Mainers are left to fend for themselves.
“[N]early one in four mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, and one in five retirees leave the workforce earlier than expected to care for an ill family member,” a Bangor Daily News article said.
This demonstrates how offering paid family leave would benefit not only families but also the state of Maine as a whole if people felt more financially stable and felt that they could stay in the workforce longer as well.
With the opportunity to take paid family leave, more workers will also enter the workforce because they have the opportunity to both work and take care of loved ones. People will feel more incentivized to stay and work in Maine knowing that this is a benefit offered to them.
Hopefully Governor Janet Mills will prioritize caring for Maine families and make the right choice in passing the PFL bill.