Skip to main content

Dodd, Santorum, Contreras-Sweet Urge Congress to Strengthen the Nation’s Leave Policies

Washington, DCThe Bipartisan Policy Center today released a letter from Maria Contreras-Sweet, the 24th administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and former Sens. Chris Dodd and Rick Santorum — members of BPC’s Paid Family Leave Task Force—urging Congress to strengthen our nation’s leave policies.

“We applaud Congress for recently providing 12 weeks of paid parental leave to more than 2 million moms and dads who serve as federal employees,” said Dodd, Santorum, and Contreras-Sweet. They noted that “at a time when many Americans are losing faith in the ability of elected leaders to work together in ways that respond to their real needs, the symbolic and practical value of action on paid family leave is hard to overstate.”

“Growing interest in paid leave reflects a broad recognition that, despite a strong economy and low unemployment, many American families today are struggling,” they said. “That’s partly because seismic social and economic shifts have made it increasingly difficult to juggle the demands of work and family life. The great majority of American households are headed by dual-working parents or a single-working parent. Most mothers (70% of women with children below the age of 18) are in the workforce, and one in four new mothers return to work less than two weeks after giving birth. At the same time, more Americans than ever—by some estimates as many as 40 million—are providing care to elderly relatives and other family members who are sick or need support.”

The letter, which accompanies a BPC paper on the issue, specifically urges Congress to consider a number of key facts when designing any new national paid leave program: the need for meaningful wage replacement; the impacts on small businesses; the need to expand job protection beyond the Family and Medical Leave Act; the benefits of treating men and women equally; and the realities that the private sector alone cannot address the needs of working families in a changing U.S. economy in which single-parent and dual-working households are on the rise, as is millennial workforce participation.

The task force is optimistic that we can reach agreement on a national program and look forward to working with policymakers and stakeholders alike to achieve this goal.