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Letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris - DeLauro, Pressley, Colleagues Urge President Biden to Include Robust Paid Leave Protections in Next COVID Relief Package


Date: Feb. 23, 2021
Location: Washington, DC

Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris:
We are writing to thank you for your clear commitment to working families, to the care economy and for
the ways you have quickly demonstrated this commitment in your agenda for the first 100 days and your
American Rescue Plan Proposal1
. Your administration has acknowledged how critical these policies are
not just to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to building back better towards a just
economy that leaves no worker, no family and no community behind. As your Administration works to
craft the next recovery package, we strongly urge you to include meaningful and permanent paid leave in
that package, to prioritize it in your legislative agendas, and to partner with us to finally make this a
reality in America.
In March of last year, Congress quickly passed an emergency paid sick and childcare leave program,
acknowledging how important these benefits would be to helping workers and families survive the public
health, economic and caregiving crises. Even though the Trump Administration failed to broadly
implement the program, it prevented more than 15,000 COVID-19 cases per day2
. It helped workers and
families on the brink hold onto their jobs, care for their families, safely quarantine, and recover from a
deadly virus. It helped small businesses stay afloat. However, as many as 106 million workers were not
included in that, predominantly women, low-wage and essential workers of color, the workers already
least likely to have paid leave through their employers3
. These were also the workers who continue to
carry our nation through this pandemic even while facing greater risks and having less protections; the
frontline workers who keep us fed, keep us working, keep us safe, and keep us healthy. They should have
already had paid leave.
That emergency paid leave policy has since expired, and while you prioritized its reinstatement in the
American Rescue Plan, at this point it appears that it will likely only carry on as voluntary tax credits for
businesses who choose to provide it, while what workers need is real and meaningful access to paid leave.
There are paths to passing these protections permanently and working families in America need it now.
We cannot emerge from this pandemic and remain one of only two countries in the world with no form of
national paid leave. We need a policy that is inclusive and that protects all workers regardless of where
they work, where they live, or whom they love. This moment, and the working families of America,
demand and deserve real and lasting policy change and protection.
Paid leave is an issue of public health, economic recovery, and racial, gender, and economic justice.
Black and Latinx women in particular are disproportionately those who make up both frontline workers
and breadwinning mothers in their households4
, and they are the least able to afford losing their income to
care for themselves or a sick family member. Many of the top jobs in which women and women of color
work, from health care to child care, have been deemed essential, forcing them to choose between a
paycheck and their health, as well as the health of their families, neighbors, coworkers, and customers.
1 https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/legislation/2021/01/20/president-biden-announces-american-rescue-plan/
2 https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00863
3 https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/news/2020/04/17/483287/coronavirus-paid-leave-exemptions-exclude-millionsworkers-coverage/
4 https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2020/04/23/483846/frontlines-work-home/
We call on the Administration and Congressional leadership to make essential work more than a title, but
to give essential workers the dignity, respect, and protections they should have had well before a
Even workers with the ability to work from home are facing unprecedented challenges between caring for
children with remote learning or for ill loved ones without support, all while doing paid work at the same
time. This has forced millions to lose that pay and their jobs in a time of great instability, and has resulted
in women losing a net 5.3 million jobs, and 2.3 million women leaving the workforce5
To be clear, this was a policy failure long before COVID-19 hit; every one of us will need to give and
receive care in our lifetimes, in times of crisis and beyond. Families lose $22.5 billion a year in this
country because of the lack of access to paid leave, with ripple effects throughout the economy. In one of
the wealthiest countries in the world, no worker should be forced to choose between keeping their family
safe and paying the rent. No one should have to make the impossible choice between their life and their
livelihood. But in America, workers and families are forced to do this every single day. Passing and
ensuring access to meaningful paid leave is the way to deliver both rescue and recovery. This is the way
to bring us together. This is the way we can truly build back better. The cost of our inaction is simply too
We urge you to include and prioritize paid leave in your recovery plans and to work with Congress to
finally and quickly pass paid leave for all--for good.