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Vote YES on Proposition 118

Yes on Prop. 118: Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance Program

// October 20, 2020

Guest Blog: Colorado Must Join the Rest of the World in Offering Paid Family and Medical Leave

Ashley Panelli is the associate state director of 9to5 Colorado – an economic justice organization that works to create system change through issue-based advocacy, grassroots organizing, and community education by directly engaging impacted womxn. Ashley has advocated for the creation of a state-run paid family and medical leave program for several years that will promote equity for Colorado workers and families.

No one should have to choose between health, family, or career

It’s time for Colorado to lead the nation and join the rest of the world in offering paid family and medical leave to its workers. That’s why I’ll be voting yes on 118. 

Currently, four out of five Colorado workers do not have access to paid family or medical leave, which means millions of workers are forced to choose between their paycheck and their families when a medical emergency strikes. Too many hardworking Coloradans have stories to share about taking their parents off life support from their work’s breakroom or returning to work too soon after chemotherapy treatments, without giving their bodies a chance to fully heal.

No one should be forced to choose between their health, their family, or their job. Prop. 118 offers Coloradans an opportunity to create a new insurance fund that will protect them in times of crisis. 

Voting yes on 118 will benefit women who have been left behind by the lack of safety net policies

We know this policy has countless benefits for workers, parents, children, and families. Across the U.S. and the world, paid leave has resulted in improved health outcomes for infants, the ability for workers to fully recover from serious illnesses, and the opportunity for people to put our families first when they need us most. It’s also clear this policy is best designed to address the inequities that low-wage workers and communities of color are facing by providing paid leave for people who have the least access to these types of programs. 

In my role at 9to5 Colorado, a grassroots, member-based organization dedicated to putting working women’s economic justice issues on the public agenda, I’ve spent many years organizing with women, especially women of color, who have been left behind by the lack of safety net policies in our country and state. That’s why Prop. 118 is so important to me: it helps bring economic stability and improve health outcomes for our communities. In families who need unpaid caregivers, women of color are most frequently the ones who shoulder that burden. This affects their ability to stay in the labor force, which in turn hurts their economic standing. 

Moreover, economists who have studied the impact of paid leave on communities of color have determined racial and gender inequities persist in Coloradans’ access to paid leave. A recent analysis by the Colorado Fiscal Institute shows only 19% of Colorado workers have access to paid family and medical leave and low-income workers, workers of color, and women are least likely to have access to the benefit, though they are often the ones who need it most.

There’s a sharp income divide when it comes to who currently can access the benefit

A study by the Pew Research Center reveals a sharp income divide when it comes to which workers have access to the benefit. While nearly 75% of those with incomes of $75,000 or higher had access to leave, only 37% of those with annual incomes under $30,000 say they received pay during leave. This leads people in low-income jobs to face especially difficult financial trade offs to take time away from work or rely on public assistance in order to cover necessary expenses.

That’s why Prop. 118 must pass: it would help more than 2.6 million hardworking Coloradans who would no longer be forced to choose between their health and their paycheck. That means women like April Kimbrough could be with their children in their final days and people like Kayla Smith would have enough paid time off to fully recover from chemotherapy before returning to work, all without worrying about financial ruin as a result. 

Over the years, I’ve heard from thousands of people who have said a paid family and medical leave program would have been life changing for them and their families. We deserve time to care for ourselves and our loved ones. We owe it to ourselves to make this happen and join 8 other states in providing this crucial benefit. For women and Coloradans everywhere, I hope you’ll join me in voting YES on Prop. 118. 

The Women’s Foundation of Colorado supports Prop. 118. Learn more about our position by reading our ballot guide, The Womanifesto.

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