WASHINGTON D.C.—The  House Committee on Oversight and Reform, chaired by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), held a hearing this morning on the critical lack of paid leave for employees who need to take time off to care for a new child, a sick family member, or their own health. Committee members and witnesses discussed the ongoing need for a comprehensive national paid family and medical leave policy and addressed possible solutions.

Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Only 60 percent of Americans can access that due to limitations on the number of employees a business has. Additionally, many workers cannot afford to take time off without pay. Overall, only about 19 percent of workers have access to paid family leave. The U.S. is one of only two nations that does not offer some form of paid leave. As of today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chairwoman Maloney have succeeded in inserting a provision into the current defense authorization bill that will provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave to federal employees.

“I applaud the persistence with which Speaker Pelosi, Chairwoman Maloney, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro are leading the fight for paid family and medical leave,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “We must win this fight for paid family and medical leave for the millions of workers who must take time away from the workforce because of the healthcare needs of their families or themselves.”

Key testimony came from Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) who sponsors the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) which would create a national paid family leave policy and establish an Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration that would provide covered caregivers with a monthly payment that would be 66 percent of their income.

“No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and caring for a new child, sick family member, or their own health,” concluded Smeal. “The burden of care disproportionately falls on working women in this country.”

Additional testimony came from Jacqui Silvani, a special education teacher who spoke about the financial and emotional hardships her family experienced when her three year old son was diagnosed with cancer. Aaron Seyedian, owner of Well Paid Maids, a small business that offers paid leave to its’ employees, discussed how it is possible for business owners to provide leave without undue financial hardship.