Financial matters

6 Weeks Paid Family Leave in 2018 Federal Budget Proposal!

May 25th, 2017

President Donald Trump has proposed that employees be granted 6 weeks paid family leave for the birth of a child (each for mothers and fathers!) or the adoption of a child. Under the proposed plan, states would be required to provide leave payments through existing unemployment insurance programs or would have to identify cuts or tax hikes, as needed, to cover the costs.

Now as most of you know, paid family leave is something that I have advocated for since the beginning of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond in 2009. Currently the United States is one of 4 nations that doesn’t offer paid leave; Lesotho, Swaziland and Papau New Guinea are the other nations. Instead, we have the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which entitles workers to 12 weeks of unpaid leave with guarantee of their job in order to care for a new baby, ill family member or themselves if they’ve worked for their employer for a year. However, this particular law has a slew of loopholes, not the least of which is that if a company is small, i.e. less than 50 members, the employer doesn’t have to abide by FMLA and if an employee is absent too much, the employer can fire them.

Paid medical leave is long overdue, but given our current administration, I am guardedly optimistic. The Republican party has long been against any sort of government intervention as it pertains to family and social services and this current administration is doing all that it can to dismantle many of our social safety net programs. So while I am excited to see families may finally be able to spend time with their new children or to take time to address pressing health issues, I’m skeptical that it’s really going to happen.

What concerns me about this proposal is that it hasn’t been clearly thought out by the administration. It’s a great eye catcher and liberals like me get all pumped-until we actually take a hard look at the proposal. There is not clear cut way to fund this proposal or a way to enforce it. Making states fund paid family leave, how will that work? What will be the repercussions if states don’t fund paid leave?  Historically, when states have been given the latitude to “govern” as they see fit, what often happens is that laws don’t take effect. A perfect example of this has been the Affordable Care Act. States were given the ability to “govern” as they saw fit and many states filed lawsuits against the bill, failed to accept allotted funds (Texas!!), didn’t expand Medicaid, and many insurers simply pulled out of the marketplace all together leaving those (of us) in the system with very few (affordable) health insurance options. Leaving paid family leave up to the states will again result in states with a high degree of social consciousness to implement a programs, and the rest will just simply let the legislation sit on someone’s desk and gather dust while it is “discussed” in legislative committees. Sadly, in many cases, those needing the provision of the proposal won’t get what they need.

Now we know that paid leave can be done. Currently California, Rhode Island, Washington, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia have paid family leave programs. These states and municipalities have made the commitment to their constituents and have found the way to fund paid leave-even when the federal government said “No”. One would think that the federal government would have looked at these programs and crafted a national program, or even recommended that representatives from these states help other states get their programs up and running. No. Nope. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

So once again, there has been a grand declaration that supporters are hailing as progress, and presidential supporters are saying that the president has kept his campaign promise. Supporters are also giving credit for the legislation to First Daughter Ivanks Trump for encouraging her father to craft such a proposal. But those of us who have been advocating for this legislation for years know the devil is in the details. Without a clear mandate, without a clear means of implementation and without funding, this proposal simply isn’t going to happen. I most certainly hope that I am wrong because paid family leave is very much needed in this country. But until I see a concrete plan of how paid leave is going to work, how each state will develop and implement their individual programs, how states will be held accountable for developing and implementing the programs, how the programs will be funded and how accessible the programs will be to ALL citizens, I will be holding off on the victory champagne and streamers .

How do you feel about paid medical leave? Have you used FMLA? How did it work for you? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

References:

US Department of Labor

MomsRising.org

Healthcare.gov

 

Mamas on Bedrest: Vermont is the Best State in Which to Have Your Baby!

February 28th, 2017

According to WalletHub.com “2016 Best and Worst Places to Have a Baby”. Wallethub.com is a virtual financial planning company that helps individuals track their spending and saving, help repair credit and help individuals protect their credit history including protecting identity. Wallethub.com tracks people and money and in their opinion, if you cannot afford to have a baby, you shouldn’t. When the parameters of delivery budget (cost to have a baby, cost of living and cost/availability of health insurance), overall health care ranking (maternal and infant mortality, rates of prematurity, availability of professionals such as midwives and pediatricians, etc.. ) and baby friendliness (i.e. parental leave, available childcare, support for new moms, etc..) were analyzed for the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Vermont ranked number 1 as best place to have a baby by wallethub.com.

It is important to plan for children as unintended pregnancies can cause huge financial strains on families and can have serious health implications for mothers and infants if pregnancies occur too close together. But there are other, equally important issues to consider before becoming pregnant; availability of and access to quality prenatal care, adequate food resources, housing, how will the mama/family fare without mama’s income, childcare and availability and accessibility of resources such as transportation that may pose potential roadblocks to a healthy pregnancy and birth.

The article in question alluded to the fact that if a couple cannot afford a child, they should not have a child. Well, I live in Texas where availability of and access to family planning information and resources is extremely and increasingly limited. So what is a couple to do? Perhaps they cannot afford a child but in Texas, there is not readily available contraception and virtually no access to abortion. Should people simply stop having sex? That won’t happen!

I agree, finances should factor into the decision of whether or not to have a child. The reality is that conception is happening regardless of financial status (or even couple status!!). In my opinion, the best states or more pointedly, the best places to have a baby (because there are little oases within what I will call “maternity deserts”, areas that are fairly void of any sort of maternity support or reproductive health care) are places with the following:

  • obstetricians and midwives, and facilities that allow both to perform deliveries
  • birthing facilities that use the least amount of intervention that is safely possible
  • birthing facilities that allow fathers and doulas to be present to support mama during labor and delivery
  • birthing facilities that allow mama to freely move during labor
  • birthing facilities that believe in immediate skin to skin bonding between mother and baby (even before wiping off the vernix, provided there are no health complications in either mother or baby!)
  • birthing facilities that promote breastfeeding and provide immediate and readily available lactation support to new mothers

These characteristics should define whether or not a provider, a hospital or birthing center, a city or town or a state is “best for mama and baby.” The worst state in which to have a baby according to Wallethub.com is Mississippi and yet I would bet that within that state there are a few hospitals or birthing centers that are supportive of childbearing women and offer quality care and support. In addition to financial considerations, prior to pregnancy (or at least prior to birth) mamas and their partners should research health care providers and the health care facilities available to them in their states, cities and communities. For sure some cities will have more resources than others, and some states will have more resources than others. But that doesn’t mean that having an uncomplicated, normal healthy birth is absolutely impossible. It just means that mamas will have to be savvy, do research about what is available and collect as many resources for themselves as possible.

Mamas, be careful what you read. The headline “Vermont is the best place to have a baby” is misleading alone, may have had many mamas ready to relocate and truly doesn’t give mamas and their families tools and tips to evaluate birthing resources and facilities in their area that may in fact be “Mama and Baby Friendly”. I believe that every woman can have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and birth a healthy full term normal weight infant. This is much easier to do in some areas where resources are more readily available than in others, but it is possible none the less. Use the aforementioned list as a guide to evaluating resources and with a bit of research, you too can make your pregnancy, labor and delivery mama and baby friendly-no matter where you live in the United States!

Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond is committed to helping mamas have safe, healthy pregnancies, labors & deliveries and healthy full term babies. If you need help finding resources in your area, e-mail info@mamasonbedrest.com.

References:

Wallethub.com

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Guttmacher Institute

 

Mamas on Bedrest: Finding Funds While on Bedrest

October 27th, 2015

Mamaonbedrest-on-the-phoneLately I have been bombarded with messages and e-mails from Mamas on Bedrest seeking for financial help. I hear you and I so wish that I could help. Unfortunately, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond was never designed to provide financial assistance to families in need.

This is not a new issue. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond has been a staunch advocate of paid family and maternity leave since its inception. We have traveled to the halls of congress with other family leave proponents to petition legislators to pass a paid family leave bill without success. To date, The National Partnership of Women and Families, MomsRising and others continue to press for paid leave, and while we have gotten close, there still remains no uniform, national paid family leave for new parents. Thus the United States has the dubious distinction of being the only industrialized nation on the planet not to offer paid family/maternity leave to its citizens. In terms of countries with medical leave benefits, we rank approximately 168th out of 172 nations that offer medical leave benefits. The only other countries without paid leave policies are Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.  Thus the United States, one of the richest nations on the planet, the nation that spends more for health care than any other nation on the planet continues to have birth outcomes and overall health outcomes that rival those of developing nations without technological resources. It is a sad state indeed.

The Family Medical Leave Act is the best that we have and that has its restrictions. Passed in 1993, FMLA allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member or for the employee to undergo treatment for illness and continue to have healthcare coverage during this time as an employee benefit. But there are some caveats. First, FMLA does not apply if you work for a small company with less that 50 employees. For companies larger than 50 employees or electing to enact FMLA, if an employee is out beyond the 12 weeks, the employers is not obligated to keep them as employees and many people have lost their jobs due to prolonged illness and absence. Additionally, while employers may be required to keep you on as an employee, they are not required to keep you in your same position or at your same salary. So after your leave, you may return to your place of employment but not to your same position.

Some individual companies have elected to offer their employees paid medical leave. This is a very individual decision and one that is not at all regulated. If your employer offers a paid leave benefit, you need to contact the human resources office to see what the rules and stipulations are regarding the paid leave. You will want to ask if there is a minimum amount of time you have had to be with the company in order to be eligible for the benefit as well as ask if you have to be a full time, salaried/exempt employee.

What else can Mamas on Bedrest do? How is a mama supposed to go on bedrest, rest, relax and calmly gestate her baby when she is filled with anxiety about her family’s finances? There are a few things that mamas can do that may help their financial situations. We offer these suggestions:

  1. Learn the laws and regulations governing paid leave for your state. Three states, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, offer paid family and medical leave. All three states fund their programs through employee-paid payroll taxes and are administered through their respective disability programs. Other states and counties have various medical leave laws, so visit your state, county and local webpages to see what your area offers in the way of medical leave.
  2. Check with your state’s labor office. Some states have a disability program and take a portion out of your paycheck for this program. If this is the case, you may be eligible to apply for benefits. Often the benefit is a percentage of your pay, say 60%, but isn’t 60% of your salary better than nothing? These programs also have various rules and regulations so check with your state labor office for complete details and to learn how to apply if there is a program for which you are eligible.
  3. Speak with your employer. Some employers are willing to make allowances for your absence. In some cases, if you are able to work from home, they will set you up with equipment to continue working while on bedrest. In other situations you may be able to job-share; a co-worker covers for you now and you cover for them when you are able. Many employers are more amenable to being flexible than losing an employee and having to find and hire a replacement which actually represents a substantial cost to the employer.
  4. Consider Work from Home options. If you aren’t eligible for any sort of paid leave, your state/county doesn’t have a disability program and your employer/job won’t allow for you to work from home, you may want to consider work from home options. Some mamas have started businesses while on bedrest, working as virtual assistants, bookkeepers, medical transcriptionist and other jobs that have nominal equipment requirements and flexible hours. If you aren’t sure what types of work from home opportunities are available, I strongly suggest that you visit Theworkfromhomewoman.com This website is run by my friend and colleague Holly Hannah and offers tips and advice for moms who want to find legitimate work from home opportunities.

I realize that adding to the stress of being placed on bedrest and worrying about how you are going to make ends meet you may not feel like looking for a job, but I have to say that many a mama has created a wonderful business out of her bedrest experience. (i.e. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, the Bedrest Concierge, The Sleep Whisperer just to name a few! Also, check out our podcasts! There are several mamas there who have taken their pregnancy/bedrest experiences and turned them into satisfying and profitable businesses!). While being placed on bedrest may not seem like an opportunity, it may in fact be the start of something wonderful for you! Check out your options. Look at the resources available to you. Ask those around you if there is something that you can do to pass the time that would help them. You may be surprised at what opportunities come your way!

If you have found a way to stay financially solvent while on bedrest, or if you have started a business while on bedrest, please share your story in our comments section below. You  truly are an inspiration and other mamas will greatly benefit from your wisdom and savvy!!!