WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) — A group of New York leaders and organizations are urging for paid leave to be included in recent legislation passed in the U.S. House.

On December 2, a group of 785 leaders and organizations released a letter sent to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, urging the Senator to include paid leave in the final Build Back Better legislative package.

In the letter, the group discussed the value of paid leave benefits in New York. The group claimed that “paid leave is an effective and necessary tool for public health and for our economic security and growth.”

They stated that before the COVID-19 pandemic, workers and their families lost $22.5 billion in wages each year on average due to a lack of paid leave. Adding that [aid leave policies can support work and labor force strength and improve worker retention.

The letter was signed by elected officials, organizational leaders, organizations, unions, businesses. business leaders, members of the entertainment industry, Jewish leaders and organizations and individual New York residents. The full letter can be read below:

Dear Majority Leader Schumer: 

We write to you as proud New York mothers, fathers, caregivers, working families, union members, business owners and leaders, non-profit organizations, and voters, to ask that you put your strongest-possible support behind including and passing paid family and medical leave in the Build Back Better Act. As you said this summer of paid family and medical leave, “There are certain moments when you can change America. Let us not pass it by.

We thank you for your leadership to fight for working families in New York and across the country; the passage of paid leave this year would cement that legacy. Simply put, on your watch, paid leave must not be left on the cutting room floor.  We believe that every working person in New York and beyond deserves time to care for themselves and their loved ones regardless of where they live or work. 

While we have seen the enormous value and impact of having a paid leave benefit at the state level in New York, we have aging parents, new grandchildren, and ill or disabled family members across this country who have no access to these protections at all. 

Paid leave is an effective and necessary tool for public health and for our economic security and growth—one our country should have had long before this pandemic began, and one we cannot recover without. Moreover, this is about living the values of racial and gender equity and fairness that Democrats in this Congress espouse. The health crisis of the last two years disproportionately impacted caregivers, essential workers, and women of color who faced the greatest job losses, and who risked their health and their lives carrying us through a pandemic. There is no equitable recovery without policies that protect and value them. 

We know what access to paid leave—or more often the lack of it—has meant for our families, in times of crisis and beyond. It is the difference of whether hard-working Americans can safely heal and care for their loved ones and themselves. It is the difference of whether illnesses spread, whether small businesses stay open and thrive, whether families can stay afloat and hold onto their jobs. 

As you know, paid leave and care policies are an investment in our shared health and prosperity. We know that passing this policy would yield millions of jobs, billions in wages, and trillions in GDP across this country. And we know that even before the pandemic, workers and their families lost $22.5 billion in wages each year due to a lack of paid leave. In contrast, paid leave policies support work and labor force strength, help families grow their earnings and financial security, improve worker retention and reduce business costs, help small businesses compete with larger ones, reduce the use of public programs, and strengthen GDP.

We have the rare opportunity now to build back better with equitable policies that will prepare us for future crises and protect the hardest-hit communities from bearing a disproportionate burden of such crises. We urge you to not let this opportunity pass us by, not to deprive nearly 20 million workers who need paid leave each year the ability to take it, and to join with us in putting your voice and the full weight of your leadership and office behind paid leave in Build Back Better.