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Advocates in West Virginia call on Congress to expand paid leave for workers

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Dozens of people from various families gathered for a picnic in Charleston’s Cato Park. But this wasn’t just about good food and having fun.

It was also about politics.

Advocates are urging Congress to pass a paid family and medical leave bill that covers all American workers.

“Right now about 4 out of 5 private sector workers lack a single, paid day off if they have a new baby or a serious illness, of a sick family member they need to care for. And that’s even worse among low wage workers. It’s 19 out of 20 that lack this benefit,” said Kelly Allen, of the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy.

Because of that, workers are often forced to choose between caring for a family member, or getting a pay check. The issues has also affected West Virginia’s efforts to deal with thousands of foster children, many of whom were left parent-less because of the opioid epidemic. Advocates say these new parents especially need help.

“Having paid leave when a child is placed with you is absolutely crucial for having bonding time, helping the child adjust to a new home. And because you never know when you will need it, you never know how often you’ll need it. You may have a child and then get another child a few weeks later, and need more time,” said Marissa Sanders, of the West Virginia Foster-Adoptive-Kinship Parents Network.

Supporters say the paid leave problem was made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, when most children had to attend school online while staying at home.

“Opponents of this paid family and medical leave bill are worried about the cost. And that private businesses and taxpayers themselves will have to face increased taxes to pay for the program. Congress will likely vote this fall,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.

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