For working families: Paid family leave, as our families should come first

Across our state, there are stories of heartbreak. I’ve heard them from people who couldn’t afford to take time off to be with their loved ones, usually at times of great crisis or illness, but also at the birth or adoption of a new baby.

I’ve talked with mothers and fathers and sons and daughters, and their stories are devastating.

All face the same challenge: They need to be with a loved one at a time of grave illness or great need, but can’t be there because they need the paycheck that’s paying the bills.

One woman said she needed to be with her husband in his final days, before cancer took his life. A young mother had to go right back to work after a baby was born. A single mom needed time to care for her young son, who struggled with a disorder that makes everything more difficult. A husband and father wanted to be with his dying wife, but couldn’t, because his paycheck was now all the family had for support.

Paid family leave is about being able to be with the people you love the most when they need you the most. It’s about being with a newborn baby, caring for an ill, elderly relative, or helping a loved one in an emergency – knowing that the bills will still be paid.

Paid family leave would also help aging workers stay in the workforce, increase the odds of success for working people recovering from substance misuse disorder and lead to higher workforce participation among new parents.

A bipartisan paid family leave bill passed the House three times during the last legislative session. The bill would have established a family and medical leave insurance program that provides up to six weeks of paid leave covering 60 percent of an employee’s weekly wage for working people who need time off to care for themselves or a family member.

The problem is, once the bill reached the Senate, Gov. Chris Sununu stopped it.

As a candidate, Chris Sununu said he supported paid family medical leave. But as governor, he broke that promise. Sununu threw up a roadblock that stopped the bill dead in its tracks when he should have instead worked with state lawmakers, in a Legislature controlled by his party, to get paid family medical leave passed.

When the Senate was ready to pass the bipartisan House bill, Sununu killed it. The big oil Oklahoma billionaire Koch Brothers, and the insurance industry – major contributors and supporters of Sununu’s campaign – both opposed the bill, offering just the latest example of Sununu putting his corporate special interest donors ahead of the people of New Hampshire.

Then, Chris Sununu made clear what he really believes about paid family leave when he described it as a “vacation.” Yes, really – a “vacation.”

I’m not taking a dime from corporations, so I won’t owe them anything. For me, our families come first.

I was a single mom raising three kids and struggling to get by. I know how hard it is and how important it is for us to do what we can to support our families, especially in times of crisis and need.

I know what paid family and medical leave would mean for New Hampshire families. I understand the challenges everyday people face, because I’ve lived them. As governor, I will make sure Granite Staters can be with their loved ones in times of need, and instead of stopping paid family medical leave, I will make it a priority and work to make it a reality.

Molly Kelly is the Democratic nominee for governor. She is facing incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu.