Over the past year, Missourians found themselves caught between caring for their families and showing up to work — with over 645,000 Missourians working in frontline industries, facing increased risks of COVID-19 exposure, and less flexibility to provide family caregiving needs.
President Donald Trump made paid family leave a part of his “American Working Families” policy portfolio because he knew giving families the opportunity to take time off from work to raise a child or care for an elder would not only improve the health and well-being of the family unit but will also lead to a happier, more productive workforce in the long term. Although President Trump is no longer in office, it is absolutely critical that our federal government moves forward with a plan for a paid family and medical leave law, and Republicans should lead the charge.
During my time in the legislature, I focused on how to improve the Missouri economy. My research showed me how far we’ve come but also how far we still have to go. There are obvious steps we can take to move Missouri forward. Paid family leave is one of the bipartisan ways we could do more to stabilize and grow our economy in our state and across the country.
Paid leave is critical to our efforts to promote stronger families, to improve morale in our workforce, and to keep Missourians self-sufficient. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation with no national paid leave policy. This is despite the fact that now 60 percent of married-couple families with children under 18 have both parents working, and more than 16 percent of our population is currently providing care for an elderly family member.
Research shows women who have access to paid leave are significantly less likely to rely on public assistance or food stamps in the year following a child’s birth. Here in Missouri, women make up 49 percent of our workforce and represent more than a quarter of our business owners. But women still carry the load of family care responsibilities, and nearly three times as many women are unemployed in Missouri compared to pre-pandemic years. Nationwide, women will lose $64.5 billion in wages, which could have a serious and lasting effect on our economic growth and sustainability. Paid leave would bridge the gap, helping those excluded from the workforce continue to support their families and engage in the economy until they can return to their jobs.
Passing a bill for paid leave would allow our families to better balance the demands of work and family so that they can continue their careers and strengthen their family unit. As the former executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, I worked closely with the Trump political organization to promote the president’s policies and work toward his re-election. It’s time for Republicans to continue the work President Trump and his daughter Ivanka started while in the White House. Senator Roy Blunt has been a leader and statesman during his political tenure. I encourage him to use his remaining time in office to work alongside the current administration to make paid family and medical leave a reality for all American families.
Jean Evans is a former state representative and former executive director of the Missouri Republican Party.