Testimony on Senate Bill 1: AA Creating A Paid Family Leave System In The State
Labor and Public Employees Committee
February 16, 2017
Dear Members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly,
My name is Timothy Demers, I am from Glastonbury, and I am here to represent the National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut Chapter. On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers we strongly support Senate Bill 1. As an organization representing over 2600 social work members in Connecticut, as well as those they serve in the community, we support Paid Family Medical Leave. We strongly believe that all people should have access to paid time off for the birth, adoption, illness of a child, illness of a family member, or for those suffering from an illness themselves. Social workers frequently work with persons who have found themselves in one of the above situations and in need of support. Unfortunately, all too often, the ability to access leave is not feasible due to the unaffordability or due to caring for a family member that is not covered under current law.
Under Connecticut’s Family and Medical Leave Act, there is no provision for paid time off to care for family members. Many low-income individuals in our state do not have access to additional resources allowing them to take unpaid leave and even for those who are able to; many of them are not eligible under the current law. Given that more than 50% of workers in Connecticut can’t access family and medical leave because they don’t qualify, it is clear that many families are put in the position of having to decide between paying their bills and taking care of their loved ones, a decision that no family should have to make. Of course, without the means to support your family, it is almost impossible to provide the proper support and care to an ill family member. Additionally, for people struggling with a severe illness themselves, it can also be extremely harmful for them to endure the stress of not knowing how to financially support their families while still attending to their health needs. It is important to note that the reimbursement for this time off needs to be a livable wage or people will continue to find themselves in the same situations.
Just as important as the reimbursement of the leave, is the expansion of the definition of a family member to include grandparents, grandchildren and siblings. This addition would allow the inclusion of many families who would otherwise not be able to access family medical leave. As social workers we recognize and advocate for the needs of all families regardless of their make-up. We often see siblings and grandparents taking on the role of a caregiver within the family, and thus should be allowed the same protections as parents and spouses. Additionally, more and more, we are seeing multigenerational households where all family members play a significant role in the financial stability of the family.
I would like to stress the psycho-social impact of not having paid family and medical leave. It is stressful, in a time of great need, not to have these resources and supports available. Such stress can lead to anxiety, depression and other behavioral health symptoms that have a direct impact on the mental health of a caregiver. The result of a lack of paid leave is an increase in the need for mental health services to caregivers and an increase on utilization of mental health services, which are already strained to the limit.
The Connecticut General Assembly has always been at the forefront of addressing the ever-changing needs of our state, and now is not the time to let our families down. The unfortunate reality is that none of us are exempt from one day finding ourselves in a situation where we too need to take time off and need access to paid family medical leave. We support Paid Family Medical Leave and call upon you to do the same.