Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) sent a bipartisan letter along with Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02) to assist new parents who need paid family leave in 2020. While last year’s National Defense Authorization Act included parental leave for federal employees, the policy does not go into effect until the new fiscal year starting October 1st, 2020.
The letter asks federal agencies to explore solutions that could help soon-to-be parents who will need to take leave in 2020 before the implementation date who do not currently have access to paid leave.
“I had a lot of Iowans reaching out to me who are employed in our National Guard or work with veterans at the VA hospital in Des Moines. There’s no real difference for these agencies to offer family leave on October 1st or March 1st, but the impact on families is huge,” said Rep. Axne. “These future parents told me they will have to quit their jobs or make drastic changes. We’re asking these agencies to find a way to work with these soon-to-be mothers and fathers and help them out. If we don’t, we’ll be losing talented members of our National Guard and health care professionals at the VA over an arbitrary deadline. We can fix this.”
The letter, which was signed by Rep. Axne, Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), was sent to the Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Office of Personnel Management.
“We have heard from federal workers who work within your Department who will need to go on leave sometime in 2020 before parental leave is scheduled to start. They have shared with us their plans to have their spouse terminate their employment, cash out their retirement programs to pay for extra assistance, or take other drastic steps for their family. Paid parental leave is the right thing to do and will make the federal government more competitive with private sector employers offering this benefit,” the members wrote.
“I was pleased when parental leave for our federal workers was included in the 2020 NDAA and my hope is that agencies can give this benefit to their workers before the October deadline,” said Rep. Bacon. “It is the right thing to do and will provide those federal workers who are starting a family, the peace of mind that comes from knowing they can care for their children.”
Paid family leave has been shown to have positive health impacts on children and babies, including reducing infant mortality rates and lowering the risk of childhood infections. Mothers with paid leave experience more mental health benefits and report being happier at work when they return.
In December, President Trump signed the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act, a product of House and Senate deliberations, and for the first time in United States history offered federal employees up to twelve weeks of paid family leave. Prior to this change, the United States and Suriname, a small country located in South America, were the only two countries in the Western Hemisphere that did not offer any paid leave for either parent.
Rep. Axne is supporting bipartisan legislation to assist pregnant women, including the Excellence in Maternal Health Act, a bill that would improve training of health care professionals that provide maternal health care.
Last year, Rep. Axne voted to prevent insurance companies from skirting ACA protections for pre-existing conditions by preventing states from promoting the sale of “junk health care plans,” which often exclude health care coverage for births.