Congress can help ease family burdens
By Ann Callis
Being a mother is one of the biggest motivating factors for me to stand up and run for Congress. I proudly watched my son become an Army Ranger, and my daughter become a middle school teacher, and was inspired by both. I think all parents reading this will understand what I mean when I say I am in awe of who my children have become.
But getting my family to this point, while working full time, wasn't always easy. There are moms and dads across the country who know exactly what I'm talking about. But in particular, Congress has not done enough to help working moms. It's time we create policies that give mothers the tools they need to excel at work and at home.
First, we need to pass paid maternity leave. This allows new mothers to take paid time off and care for their loved ones without the fear of losing their job. American is one of three countries in the world that doesn't have a mandatory paid family leave policy. Right now many women can't even take a paid sick day to give birth. We should not be forcing parents to make a choice between having a job and having a family. Current policy only guarantees that some women get unpaid maternity leave and does nothing to provide private-sector paternity leave for dads, both of which many families in our community simply can't afford.
I would support legislation in Congress called the FAMILY Act, which would provide women with up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year to qualifying workers who care for a newborn or adopted child, seriously ill immediate family member, their own medical condition, or for military leave. The Healthy Families Act, another piece of important legislation, would give many employees up to seven paid sick days a year. This is a critical issue, and the kind of common sense solution I will prioritize in Congress to help real families struggling in our community.
Second, we need to ensure families have access to quality and affordable child care. Many households these days require two incomes to pay the bills, therefore one parent can't stay home to watch young children. Nationally, nearly two out of every three mothers with pre-school age children are in the labor force. Full-time child care translates into a cost of $4,000 to $12,000 per child a year, depending on where they live. That price tag is too high for families struggling to get by. Parents need to know their children are being cared for and safe if we expect them to be successful employees.
We know that investing in early-childhood education is a key component to helping children and communities succeed. I want to see increased support for early Head Start programs as well as an increase of the child-care tax credit available for families.
Mothers across the country are working to support their families. It is past time for Congress to get to work and support these moms. By creating paid maternity leave and supporting quality and affordable child care options, we can improve the lives of millions of American moms and help our economy at the same time.
Ann Callis of Edwardsville is the Democratic nominee for Illinois' 13th Congressional District.