Letter to the Editor: Md. Can’t Afford to Wait on Paid Family Leave

To to the Editor:

Congress continues to take baby steps towards passage of a comprehensive Paid Family Leave program, but Marylanders can’t afford to wait — nor should we have to. When the legislative session begins next month in Annapolis, the Maryland General Assembly will again consider the “Time to Care Act,” legislation to establish a Family and Medical Leave Insurance program that will support the ability to care for a new child, seriously ill family member, or their own serious health condition.

The legislation dates back at least to 2016. Last year, “Time to Care,” had 45 cosponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate. Now our state has an opportunity, with this wave of progressive change in Annapolis, for our General Assembly to pass this legislation.

As a small business owner, I believe it is important and financially smart to offer this benefit to my employees. I can say firsthand that this policy has not only been good for my team members, but also, for my company’s bottom line.

One of my team members had both of his parents dealing with early onset Alzheimer’s and needed to focus on family. Our team member needed to spend several days a month for several months away from the office to focus on helping his family. After I told him that his job was covered, he said, “This is my forever job.”

Look, I know my company cannot give away $10 million in bonuses (kudos to Ed St. John), but we can be compassionate, and a fiscally responsible small business, all at the same time.

I am also not naïve. Every business is different. But I know when Marylanders put our full effort into figuring something out, that we know is right, we do it.

But let’s be real. Politics is often a numbers game. In “Md. Dems Hail Deal on Paid Family Leave for Federal Workers” (Maryland Matters, Dec. 11) Allison Winter overlooks the groundswell behind the movement for comprehensive Paid Family Leave in our state. Polling earlier this year by Opinion Works showed that an overwhelming 86% of Maryland voters favor creation of “a family and medical leave insurance program that would provide workers with partial wage replacement for up to 12 weeks when they need time away from work to address a serious family need.”

This support crosses party lines, generations, and demographic groups. In all regions of the state, support for Paid Family Leave never falls below 85%. Even more remarkable: When told that the program would be funded by $3 to $5 per week paycheck deduction, the support of Maryland voters holds firm at 79%.

Paid family leave allows businesses, like my own, to compete with bigger corporations by providing competitive benefits to recruit and retain a stellar workforce.

Providing time to care is the right thing to do. Period.

— JAYSON WILLIAMS

The writer is CEO of MD Strategic Consulting, a public affairs and strategic marketing firm, and a board member of the Maryland Family Network.