In the eleven years I have lived in DC, I have had the unfortunate need to utilize provisions of personal and medical leave on three separate occasions. My story is not unique - but it is a critical reminder of why we must support people throughout their lives, because anything can happen - and usually does.
I moved here as an undergraduate student, stayed when I became a federal employee and a graduate student, and am now a proud homeowner in Ward 6, and work at a non-profit association.
In August of 2012, my 57-year-old father was diagnosed with terminal, stage IV Colon Cancer. I went home to be with him and my mother for what I thought would be one week. Multiple complications later, I was on paid family caregiving leave for 10 weeks.
In May of 2014, I went for an early morning run in my neighborhood, and was the victim of a hit and run. To this day, the driver who nearly took my life has not been found. But I went on 13 weeks of medical leave, had two reconstructive surgeries, and have spent the past 24 months of my life in physical therapy.
In December of 2015, I took four weeks of paid family caregiving leave to be home while my mother had emergency surgery and my father was admitted to the hospital for oncological care.
The recent version of this bill would no longer allow me to support my parents. And it is unclear whether I would have been able to take paid medical leave to recover after treatment from my accident. The exclusion may not be intentional, but the council needs to clarify the ambiguous language.
Our city is more than its physical infrastructure. It is also a reflection of the lives that our citizens are able to create for themselves and their families. Personal and family medical leave is a critical right that we must guarantee to all our residents. It is a crucial tool to enable our city’s people to live lives that are healthy, sustainable, equitable and something to be proud of. To make this a city we can all be proud of, we need to pass a strong Paid Family and Medical Leave bill for all of us.
My story is only mine. But it represents the stories of so many others, and is a critical reminder of why we must support people throughout their lives, not just at moments of joy. Family leave is often most needed in when we least expect it. We need to ensure that it is there for everyone who lives or works in DC.