Testimony on Senate Bill 1: An Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave and House Bill 5003: An Act Implementing a Paid Family Medical Leave Program

February 14, 2019

Dear Senator Kushner, Representative Porter, and Esteemed Members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee,

My name is Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, and I am the executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut Chapter. On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, an organization representing over 2,500 social work members in Connecticut as well as those they serve in the community, we strongly support Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 5003, acts that would establish a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program in our state. We strongly believe that all people should have access to paid time off for the birth, adoption, or illness of a child, illness of a loved one, 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 do, many of them are not eligible under the current law. Given that 59% of workers in Connecticut can’t access even unpaid family and medical leave because they don’t qualify or can’t afford it[1], 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 is the expansion of the definition of a family member to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, other relatives, unmarried partners, and chosen family. 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 makeup. 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, we are seeing the formation of more and more multigenerational households where all family members play a significant role in the financial stability of the family.

Finally, I would like to stress the psychosocial 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 and medical leave and call upon you to do the same.

[1] diversitydatakids.org. (2015). Working Adults Who Are Eligible For and Can Afford FMLA Unpaid Leave. Retrieved from Brandeis University, The Heller School,

Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy website: http://www.diversitydatakids.org/data/ranking/529/working-adults-who-are-eligible-for-and-can-afford-fmla-unpaid-leave-share/

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