Paid leave’s demise tough on backers in Manchin’s home state
CHARLESTON (W.Va.) — Jessi Garman has been looking for a job and trying to have a child with her military husband. She was optimistic that Congress would finally approve paid family medical leaves.
But that was before the opposition of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia torpedoed her proposal. Garman’s despair has become anger, as both having another child and working full-time are not possible.
“It almost seems personal because Joe Manchin, my senator, is involved,” Garman said from Milton. Supporters of a decades-old plan to allow workers to take time off for medical care, including childbirth and surgeries, are facing another disappointment in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia. This poor state has one of the oldest populations in the country.
State activists are still working with Manchin — a proleave group was planning to rent an aircraft and fly a banner above one of his political fundraisers this weekend at a resort, said Kayla Young of the state House of Delegates. Kayla is also assisting Paid Leave Works for West Virginia, an advocacy group. They hope that President Joe Biden will include some form of paid leave in his social spending package.
” “It’s depressing, but it’s not over yet,” Young said.
Sarah Clemente believes Young is correct, as paid leave would have made it easier for her three children. She said that she was forced to take two years off work and then return to work a week after giving birth to Penelope, her youngest child, who she adopted from Ryan’s family.
” We followed the guidelines for being responsible and successful adults. Clemente, a year-old healthcare manager, said that while we were there, there was still a lot to be done. It’s still hard.
Biden originally proposed 12 paid leave for parents, caregivers, and people who are ill. However, the White House released a $1.7 trillion framework on Thursday, after Manchin’s opposition became apparent. Manchin, whose support has been crucial due to the slim Democratic edge of the Senate, stated that he wants to avoid making the United States “an entitlement society.”
Democrats continue to lobby the senator but he hasn’t shown any signs of easing despite suggestions to reduce leave from 12 weeks down to four or limit it to new parents. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, said that she spoke extensively with Manchin. He asked great questions but wasn’t interested in the details of the proposal or was concerned about its cost.
Amber Gabor, Manchin’s county in northern West Virginia said that some time off would have been helpful when one of her children — aged 2, 7, and 9 — had to be home for two weeks following a coronavirus outbreak at his school. However, 12 weeks paid leave seemed excessive to her.
” I don’t think you need that much at once, unless it were a maternity leave. Gabor, who works remotely as a customer service representative for a power company, said that most workplaces offer this.
A Spencer-based dental receptionist, Samantha Camp, says she will continue to make ends meet without paid leave.
Camp will continue to pay $50 per month for her disability insurance, which she bought as an insurance policy to protect herself from having to miss work due a bone problem. She felt that she was forced to return to work earlier than her doctors had recommended.
“It was very worrying being without any income,” stated Camp, 34. “The doctors wanted me to wait for six weeks. I knew that I could not afford to do this financially. I was actually off only two and a half weeks.”
Chris Hedges, a partner in the law firm, said it gave Camp all the vacation time it could scrape together and having government-funded leave would have made things so much better.
” It is almost impossible for small businesses to afford paid leave, Hedges stated. Biden’s bill would have provided paid leave. It would have helped us keep employees.”
Brittanie Hairston, Charleston’s westside resident, said that paid leave would have alleviated her concerns about what would happen to her children if they were to become sick with COVID -19, or some other illness.
” I can’t return to work until they are clear,” she stated.
Mildred Tompkins works for a nonprofit that promotes health and education in the capital. She said her two daughters, who are both in their 20s, and work in low-paying health care jobs, would have been able to benefit from paid leave.
“For people that are just regular, right at the poverty line and working,” she said, “it would make a difference.”
Associated Press writers John Raby in Fairmont, W.Va., and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report.