Jessi Garman, the mother of 3-year-old twin girls, was looking for a job while also trying to have a third child with her husband, who is in the military. Optimistic that Congress would finally approve paid family medical leave, she felt it seemed like the right time.
But that was before opposition from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia torpedoed the proposal. Both having another child and a full-time job don’t seem feasible right now, and Garman’s hopes have turned to anger.
“It seems almost personal because Joe Manchin is my senator,” Garman of Milton said.
Proponents of the decade-old proposal to allow workers to take sick leave, including childbirth, surgeries and end-of-life care, face a new disappointment at Manchin Home in West Virginia, a poor country with one of the oldest populations in the country.
State activists are still working in Manchin – a departure group that planned to rent a plane this weekend and stick a banner over one of his resort’s political fundraisers, said Kayla Young, a member of the National Assembly of Delegates who also helps with an advocacy group, Paid Leave Works for West Virginia. They hope that some version of paid leave will still be included in President Biden’s social spending package.
“It’s a disappointment, but I don’t think it’s over yet,” Young said.
Sarah Clemente hopes Young is right, as paid leave would make things easier with all three of her children. Instead, she said she had to take a total of two years and return to work just a week after the birth of her youngest – Penelope, now 6 – who she and her husband Ryan adopted from a relative who could not care for her. .
“We followed a textbook on what we were supposed to do to be responsible, successful adults. And while we are there now, there has been a lot of suffering and heartbeat, ”said Clemente, a 40-year-old healthcare manager. “And it’s still hard.”
Biden initially proposed 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, people caring for loved ones, or people recovering from illness, but that was not included in the $ 1.7 trillion framework released by the White House on Thursday after Manchin’s opposition became clear. Manchin, whose support is crucial because of the slim Democratic advantage in the Senate, said he wants to avoid turning the United States into a “society of eligibility.”
Democrats continue to lobby the senator, but despite proposals to reduce leave from 12 weeks to four or to limit it to new parents only, he showed no signs of retiring. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said she had talked extensively with Manchin and asked good questions, but he did not focus on the specifics of the proposal and had concerns about its costs.
In Manchin’s home district of northwest Virginia, Amber Gabor allowed some free time to come in handy when one of her children – aged 2, 7 and 9, another was due in a few weeks – had to stay home for two . weeks after a coronavirus case at his school. But 12 weeks of paid leave seemed excessive to her.
“I don’t know why we would need all of this at once, unless it was maternity leave. But most [work] cities offer it anyway, ”said Gabor, who works from home and provides customer service for the energy company.
In the rural town of Spencer, dental receptionist Samantha Camp is one of those who say they will continue to survive without the possibility of paid leave, as always – with difficulty.
Camp will continue to pay about $ 50 a month for disability insurance, which he buys as protection against being late for work due to a bone problem that caused hip replacement surgery last year. After the surgery, she felt she had no choice but to return sooner than the doctors recommended she work at the small law firm where she worked at the time.
“It was very worrying to be without income,” Camp, 34, said. “The doctors wanted to put me off for about six weeks. All I knew was that I couldn’t do it financially. In fact, I was only absent for two and a half weeks. “
Chris Hedges, a partner at the law firm, said he gave Camp all the time leave he could combine, and that the government-funded leave would make things significantly better.
“It’s almost impossible for small businesses to afford paid leave,” Hedges said. “Paid leave that would be created with Biden’s account would help. That would help us keep employees. ”
Brittanie Hairston, on the west side of Charleston, where many working-class and poor people live, said paid leave would ease her worries about what would happen if one of her sons, ages 6 and 10, fell ill with COVID -19 oz. something else.
“I can’t go back to work until they clear up,” she said.
Mildred Tompkins, who works with a nonprofit health and education organization in the state’s capital, said her own daughters, who are 20 years old and work in relatively low-paid health jobs, would benefit from paid leave.
“For people who are regular, on the brink of poverty and working,” she said, “that would make a difference.”