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COVID-19 Puts a Spotlight on What We Already Knew: National Paid Family Leave is Essential for All Workers

A sustainable, comprehensive, paid family leave policy is important to ensurthat adults can take the time they need to nurture young children so that they grow up healthy, confident, and ready to learn. 

With shelter-in-place, social distancing, and quarantine orders in effect across the country as a result of COVID-19, families have had to adjust to new realities, including the complexities of providing care to children and other loved ones. Some of the families hit the hardest by this crisis are facing job loss, financial insecurity, and a loss of services they relied on so they could work. Still other individuals deemed “essential workers” leave their families every day for hospitals, grocery stores, and restaurants, finding it especially difficult to provide care to loved ones at home.

Across the country, this pandemic has brought to light the stark disparities that exist in our society when it comes to a family’s ability to access services and benefits available to them. These barriers affect people depending on their race, incomeand immigration statusbringing to the forefront the need for a comprehensive, national, paid family leave policy. This includes not only requiring paid time off for parents and primary caregivers for new biological and adopted children, but it also includes other circumstances like caring for a sick or elderly family member, or covering child care costs. With such a policy in place, all adults in the workforce will be able to take the time they need to care for their children or a loved one.  

This is why the Packard Foundation, as part of its grantmaking around the COVID-19 pandemichas devoted more than $1 million to support the strides that have been made toward a comprehensive and lasting paid family leave policy. 

This funding aims to serve two purposes: 

  1. Support the implementation of the national stimulus legislation. The federal stimulus legislation passed in response to COVID-19 enacted a 12-week paid family leave policy that offers a federal payroll tax credit for employers so they can cover 100% of the cost of wages. The Packard Foundation is supporting technical assistance like legal and policy analysis across multiple states (including California) to implement this policy, and to lift up the stories about how families and children are benefitting. 
  2. Support advocacy for a sustainable national policy. The stimulus legislation represents the first time our country has seen actionable, bipartisan support for paid family leave. Because the stimulus legislation expires on December 31, 2020, the Packard Foundation is supporting bipartisan efforts to explore how this policy can become a long-term, lasting policy nationwide. 

To support these efforts, we have made the following grants: 

  • Family Values at Work ($400,000Supporting states’ proactive responses to COVID-19 around paid family leavetracking the impacts of federal actions on states, creating a blueprint for state and local implementation of federal policiesand undergoing an effort to expand the organization’s reach to even more workers and families. 
  • Center for Law and Social Policy ($365,000) Providing technical assistance to state administrators and system leaders around childcare and early education policypaid sick days and paid family and medical leave implementation, and the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign. 
  • Bipartisan Policy Center ($600,000Building bipartisan support for national paid family leave, including spreading the word about existing emergency leave benefits to workers and employersinvolving more workers in the movement to secure a lasting national paid family leave policyand lifting up the stories of families benefitted by paid family leave efforts.   
  • PL+US, Paid Leave for the United States ($300,000) Engaging in public education and advocacy to build demand for paid family leave while elevating the personal stories in California and other states of the benefits of paid family leave. 
  • Legal Aid at Work ($185,000) Sharing nationwide the policy analysis and information about lessons learned from California’s paid family leave experience while also supporting implementation of the new federal stimulus legislation. 

Now more than ever, it is clear that we must support policies that ensure families can place equal value on two critical needs – their health and wellbeing, and their financial securityWe will continue to monitor the shifting landscape around these issues, and we invite other funders, businesses, and decisionmakers to join the national search for solutions. If you would like to learn about how you can contribute, or if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Children, Families, and Communities program officer Katherine Beckmann or program director Meera Mani at [email protected].