Organizations call for Congress to expand paid leave for all Hoosiers

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INDIANAPOLIS– More than 20 organizations across Indiana are urging Congress to expand paid leave during the pandemic.

Requirements for paid sick & family leave have loopholes that are causing problems for some Hoosiers.

In the spring, Erin Macey desperately needed time off to help her four kids transition to e-learning as schools shut down from the pandemic.

“We had ten Zoom meetings per day and I’m trying to help with math homework and download worksheets and stuff like that, it was exhausting,” explained Macey, who is also the Senior Policy Analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families.

Federal law required her company to grant her at least two weeks of paid leave due to COVID-19 daycare and school closures.

“That ability to do that was such a huge benefit to our family,” said Macey. “I really want to make sure other families that have access to this benefit know that it is available to them.”

However, the Indiana Institute for Working Families, where Macey works, estimates 1.5 million Hoosier workers don’t get that guarantee.

Current requirements only cover companies with less than 500 workers and more than 20.

“This is reimbursed 100 percent through a tax credit,” explained Macey. “So, really the federal government is reimbursing people to stay attached to their employer which is what we want right now.”

While he supports voluntary paid leave programs — Indiana Chamber of Commerce president Kevin Brinegar is concerned about the impact a mandated policy would have on Hoosier businesses in this current economic climate.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have been encouraging companies to work with their employees and be as empathetic as possible. Nothing prohibits Hoosier employers from giving necessary emergency sick or caregiver leave on their own or extending or amending their work-at-home policies. Our member surveys indicate most employers are doing just that.

“At issue is whether the federal government will impose a blanket, unfunded mandate on thousands of struggling businesses. We don’t think that’s necessary. This is uncharted territory for everyone, but small employers, in particular, cannot increase their costs and absorb the loss of productivity,” said Brinegar.

He added most businesses are more than willing to talk with their employees to come up with the best plan.

Macey isn’t convinced that will happen without a requirement.

“Our society has done a really terrible job of supporting working parents unlike many other countries that have paid leave systems,” said Macey.

She said with rising COVID-19 cases and schools making last-minute decisions to move online, families need this protection now.

“People need to be able to support their families financially and they need to be able to provide care for them, paid leave allows them to do both,” said Macey.

We reached out to Indiana’s two United States Senators Mike Braun and Todd Young regarding this request.

We have yet to hear back.

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