Letter: It’s the right thing to do for families, small businesses

Published 8:30 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

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My children are grown and gone, and my parents and in-laws have all passed on. However, I still remember the struggles our family faced over the years. When my twin sons were two, my husband donated a kidney to his ailing, diabetic brother, saving and extending his life for years. My husband had to miss weeks of work. I was lucky that as a teacher I could balance taking care of my husband and my sons because the surgery took place in June, and I was off. When one of my sons broke his leg at age 4, he spent nearly a month in traction at Naeve Hospital. Again, it was June and I could tend to him at the hospital and my other son at home, and continue his care when he returned home in his cast. Because I am from a large family, my father and eventually my mother got lots of support from my nearby brothers and sisters, each taking turns to take them to the doctor or other appointments, and stepping up as needed. My father-in-law contracted cancer and died after a year of at-home care by family. We took turns taking time off, but two of my sisters-in-law did the lions share of caretaking with leaves of absence, often without pay. Three years ago, I broke my ankle badly and my husband was able to work from home to care for me. My husband and I were lucky that our jobs allowed us to manage these family crises easier than most.

I think my family’s stories are pretty typical of what most families face today. That’s why I was excited to see the Legislature tackling this problem with a proposal for Paid Family and Medical Leave policy. My understanding is that it would serve as a social insurance program, not unlike our unemployment insurance program. Both employers and employees would pay about $3 per week, allowing employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for themselves or their families. They will receive partial replacement wages for the time they are on leave. And employers will receive partial replacement wages, too, so they could hire a replacement or compensate another employee to take on extra work. In a time of worker shortage in many front-line worker positions, this would help people make the jump back to work, knowing that they don’t have to choose between work and family.

It is estimated that 80% of voters favor this policy. And it is the right thing to do for our families and for our small businesses. It is a policy whose time has come and I am grateful to the Legislature for taking it on.

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Mary Hinnenkamp
Albert Lea