Focus on Relief Not Party Politics

Mother and daughter wearing pollution protection masks in taxi

Rather than focusing on the people she represents, Senator Ernst has been working to ram through a Supreme Court Justice in the midst of an election.  She needs to prioritize Iowans over party politics. She needs to focus on the relief Iowans and Americans need during this pandemic.

You may have noticed some billboards and other advertisements stating that Joni Ernst voted against Paid Leave For All during this COVID-19 crisis.  But what you might not realize is she not only voted no – she actually tried to undermine this important benefit that expanded emergency protections for thousands of Iowans.

While Senator Ernst did vote for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), when it came to the paid leave portion, she was a resounding no vote. She supported and voted for the Johnson Amendment – which would have removed paid sick and family leave.  And she voted NO on the Murray Amendment that would have closed the loopholes to cover more workers with the paid leave they need during this crisis.

What she does and what she says are entirely different stories. At Governor Reynolds’ press conference in March, Senator Ernst praised the paid sick leave provision. She even went so far as to state that, “a significant part of phase two was also making sure that our workers, our moms and dads, have paid sick leave, emergency sick leave, so that if they were affected by the coronavirus then they would be covered for the time that they had to take away from their employer.”  This is the same provision she voted against.

Iowans are facing impossible choices, forcing us to choose between job and family. If COVID-19 has taught us anything it’s that paid leave goes beyond helping families and saving lives.  It bolsters the economy by helping employers retain their workers and stay afloat while doing so.  It has shown us that paid leave needs to extend to ALL employers – that those with over 500 employees must be included so that all workers receive this benefit, not be left to the discretion of the big companies.

COVID has also shown us that small employers cannot do it on their own.

Last year, the polls showed that both small businesses and workers strongly support a paid leave program, so Senator Ernst came up with her own bill.  The CRADLE Act would have workers tap their Social Security income early and delay retirement.  In other words, robbing future retirement income, which economists agree is likely to have a major impact on a parent’s financial life, not just the few months they cared for their new baby. Another huge concern is whether the Social Security fund could handle this additional need and still provide traditional benefits to those workers when they hit retirement.

Another plan, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would create a sustainable national fund that would reduce the number of working families in Iowa who are facing significant economic insecurity when they need to take family and medical leave.  For about the price of a cup of coffee a week for the employer and employee, a small amount would go into an insurance fund. A new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave would be created to administer the fund and make benefit determinations and distributions. Contributions would cover both benefits and administrative costs.

COVID-19 has taught us that paid leave saves jobs and saves lives. We know we need a common-sense solution to address the paid leave crisis – a solution that extends beyond the December 31, 2020 expiration of the FFCRA. We know we need a national paid leave plan that covers all Americans.

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