As Congress considers policies related to workers and families in the coming months, we write today to urge you to support the authorization and funding of a national paid family and medical leave program that includes paid leave benefits for individuals with serious illnesses and health conditions and their caregivers.
Over the past year, millions of family caregivers found themselves needing to isolate or take leave to care for family members, scrambling to fill gaps in care—often without pay or access to paid leave—as many older adults lost access to services. Thousands of Americans are sandwiched between providing care for an older adult or relative with a serious health condition and typical childcare duties. With the limited exception of tax credits to cover a narrow scope of COVID-related leave, federal response legislation to the coronavirus pandemic has largely excluded support for family caregivers.
Caregiver responsibilities vary but all are essential to the health and welfare of individuals living with serious conditions such as Alzheimer's. According to the National Alliance of Caregiving and AARP, these include:
o Monitoring of the care recipient's condition and adjusting care (66%).
o Communicating with healthcare professionals on behalf of the care recipient (63%).
o Acting as an advocate for the care recipient with care providers, community services, or government agencies (50%).
The availability of paid family and medical leave for people with and caring for individuals who have serious health conditions such as Alzheimer's and related dementias is vital, as treatment and caregiving are often difficult and time consuming. The flexibility to balance treatment and employment is essential for patients and caregivers.
According to research from UsAgainstAlzheimer's, paid family and medical leave has a significant positive impact for employed adult caregivers of loved ones living with Alzheimer's and related dementias, including improved emotional well-being and the ability to navigate treatment plans. Unfortunately, less than half of employed dementia caregivers have access to paid family and medical leave, and without it they risk financial hardship or not getting the care they or their loved ones need.
Only one-fifth of workers in the United States have access to employer provided paid family leave[i] and only two in five have access to short-term disability insurance through their jobs that allows them to receive partial pay while they recover from their own serious health issue.[ii] Fewer than 60 percent of workers qualify for job-protected, unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and workers of color, low-wage workers and single parents are disproportionately excluded.[iii] Research from the National Alliance for Caregiving shows sixty two percent of caregivers working over 30 hours or more per week say paid leave would help them financially.
People of color and with lower incomes are also disproportionately impacted by dementia and other serious health conditions meaning the very patients and caregivers who are more likely to need to use paid family and medical leave are the ones least likely to have access to it.
For these reasons as well as ongoing surges of COVID-19 and its variants, we urge you to swiftly enact a national paid family and medical leave program that includes paid leave for patients and caregivers and is adequately and sustainably funded. It is imperative that the program be authorized and funded beyond the short term and that patients and their caregivers can rely on the program to access needed care on an ongoing basis, for a meaningful number of weeks or intermittently when they need it.
Thank you for considering our requests. If you have any questions or would like to talk with our representatives, please direct your staff to contact Stephanie Monroe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[i] Table 31. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2020. September 2020. Bulletin 2793. https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2020/employee-benefits-in-the-united-states-march-2020.pdf
[ii] Table 16. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2020. September 2020. Bulletin 2793. https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2020/employee-benefits-in-the-united-states-march-2020.pdf
[iii] Abt Associates, prepared for the U.S. Department of Labor. Employee and Worksite Perspectives of the Family and Medical Leave Act: Results from the 2018 Surveys. July 2020. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/OASP/evaluation/pdf/WHD_FMLA2018SurveyResults_FinalReport_Aug2020.pdf