116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The polarization in American politics is exhausting. Especially in Congress, it seems our leaders are unable to lead. They certainly look unable to work together.
But in the last few months of the 117th Congress, there is one issue where Republicans and Democrats should be able to find common ground and pass a good bill: paid family leave.
As a high school principal and now as a CEO, I have always known our employees need to spend time with their families. Not only is caring for families the right thing to do, but when employees can take the time they need for their family, it also means they work harder and stick around longer.
At The FAMiLY Leader, we have always offered paid leave. Our team is stronger for it.
But I’m also a father and (since 2020) a grandfather. Paid leave was important to me and my wife after the birth of each of our four boys. It was also important to my son and his wife, giving them time to recover and care for their kids — my grandchildren. Now, as parents of a two year old and a 5-month-old, they still need time to recover … in particular, they need sleep!
Common sense tells us parents need time home with their family, but research also points to the importance of maternity and paternity leave. Studies show more time at home with a new child helps mothers avoid depression, helps fathers bond with their new children, and helps kids’ mental and physical development. More time at home even reduces infant deaths!
The lesson is clear: Paid family leave is right for businesses, right for workers, and right for American families.
Unfortunately, the lowest-paid workers in our country are the least likely to have the opportunity to take paid leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that only 23% of workers in America — and fewer than 1 in 10 of low-wage workers — have paid family leave, cutting short those precious early days with a new son or daughter.
This is a tragedy not only for parents, but also for our kids!
Iowa’s own Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have led the effort to find a workable solution that avoids the pitfalls of mandates or overspending. In 2019, Grassley created the bipartisan Paid Family Leave Working Group to find a path forward. That same year, Sen. Ernst introduced a proposal, the CRADLE Act, which would have empowered Americans by allowing them to use their own Social Security to fund maternity or paternity leave in exchange for slightly delaying retirement.
Disappointingly, in a partisan U.S. Senate, the Paid Leave Working Group has never met, and the CRADLE Act was never considered.
Instead of working together with Republicans to find a solution, Democratic leadership this year hung their hopes on an expensive government mandate in the Build Back Better bill. And when the massive, $2 trillion omnibus failed, families were left out.
Senators only have a few months to work before the next election and the next Congress. Instead of continued partisan bickering, they should prioritize a workable solution on paid family leave. And they should start with proposals like Sen. Ernst’s: budget neutral and without mandates on businesses.
Families in Iowa are ready.
Bob Vander Plaats is president and CEO of The FAMiLY Leader, an Iowa-based Christian ministry.