For years, Maine’s working families have been struggling with rising healthcare costs, increased cost of living, and the chipping away of crucial social safety nets. Now, this pandemic has made clear how at risk our working families have become.
Right now, Maine has an unpaid Family & Medical Leave policy. This means many families are either forced to go to work when they or a loved one are unwell, or they risk losing the income they need to pay rent or buy groceries.
The lack of a Paid Family & Medical Leave Policy is even harder on families who need more constant care. Abby and her son William are one of those families.
William was diagnosed with Down Syndrome a few days after he was born and spent weeks in the NICU. Abby’s employer provided six weeks of paid leave; she used up her accrued vacation time for another six weeks. Her husband was only able to take two weeks off using his paid vacation time.
While William is in good health now, the COVID-19 pandemic has interfered with many of the programs the family relies on to keep him healthy and supported, including his after school care.
“One thing I do struggle with right now, particularly with COVID, is that his services, that are supposed to be provided by the state, are not provided well enough to continue,” said Abby.
Now, Abby and her husband will have to split time to care for Colby in the afternoons after school, which will interfere with their work.
“Parents and caregivers that find themselves in a place where they have to choose between a job and taking care of their children is a crisis situation; and during COVID, everyone is in a crisis situation.”
If our families can’t take time off to get better when they are sick, or to care for their family, we’ll be hard-pressed to recover from this pandemic.