Chelsea Jacobson's daughter was born prematurely. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Jacobson was able to take up to 12 weeks of leave to spend time with her daughter in the intensive care unit. During those 12 weeks, Jacobson's job was guaranteed.
Her income wasn't.
"We still weren't home from the NICU when my days were up. And then I just decided to stay home because she wasn't able to go to a daycare facility. It was needed that she was at home with me," says Jacobson.
Jacosbon, and others at the roundtable discussion with Senator Heidi Heitkamp in Watford City, discussed having to use accrued sick time as maternity leave-
often times, that maternity leave was unpaid once the sick days ran out.
As of now, only a handful of states offer paid family leave. But a new bill, The Family Act, could change that.}
"I'm an only child from a single mother. If something happens to my mom, what would I do?," Cassandra Longbrake, a teacher at Watford City Elementary School, asked Heitkamp.
Under the Family Act, a proposed bill supported by Heitkamp, employees and employers would pay a small percent of wages into a fund that could be used for partially paid leave. The act would cover family events like childbrith or medical leave for oneself or a child or parent.
"I showed up today because this is a situation not just for females but for the males as well. I believe in whole families being with their kids and everything," says Stephen Kessler, an agriculture education teacher in Watford City.
If passed, the bill would potentially ease financial strains for working families.
"Just having the stability, knowing that we could have at least that 12 weeks paid for during that family leave act, to at least help us with that burden, would be greatly appreciated," says Jacobson.
Senator Heitkamp also believes the bill would benefit businesses. Offering paid family leave across the board, she says, could level the playing field.
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