Moms In Office PAC Founder Simona Grace Interviews Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand About Paid Leave In America

The whole world is experiencing a global pandemic like never before with COVID-19. Aside from the obvious and very serious medical and health issues, the Coronavirus has impacted many aspects of daily life including our careers. Numerous parents are now having to juggle full time workloads while at home with school-aged kids who also need to stay on track with their course work.

One of the most interested conversations we have seen floating around on social media is the acknowledgement of how such a global pandemic can change life forever as we know in terms of policies and support systems being put into place after. Post-depression it was the ushering in of social programs such as medicare and social security, as well as the 40 hour work week and the end of child labor. With the 2008 financial crash it was the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare), which saw the biggest expansion of healthcare the US has ever seen, as well as the introduction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, spearheaded by Senator Elizabeth Warren to protect everyday citizens from being taken advantage of by major financial institutions.

What will emerge in our society post COVID-19? One of the glaring concepts for many working parents is paid leave. As it stands, America is still the only industrialized nation not to have any federal policy relating to paid family leave. A small number of states have their own policies, and nationally there is the unpaid Family Medical Leave Act. While we are yet to see a united Congress voting on a paid leave bill, one particular Senator has been championing the cause for a number of years – NY Democratic Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand. And it seems her focus on paid leave is more prescient than ever.

Our friend Simona Grace, founder of the Moms in Office PAC and recipient of the recent 2020 California Mother of the Year award, had an opportunity to interview Senator Gillibrand about paid leave in Los Angeles in February, and the importance of electing more women to public office in order to see more family-friendly policies and support systems being put into place in the United States. Given that Moms in Office is an organization committed to strengthening the political voice of all women and help more progressive moms get elected to office, this was a perfect pairing and timely conversation. We worked with in collaboration with Simona to publish this here with permission and share what the Senator had to say:

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Grateful for Senator Gillibrand’s leadership this week standing up for workers, mothers and families. Senator Gillibrand said that the #COVID19 outbreak has made it clear again that we must do more to support working families. Along with her colleagues, she introduced the PAID Leave Act—a comprehensive emergency paid sick and family leave bill to help workers confront this and future crises. We enjoyed sitting down with Senator Gillibrand a few weeks ago to talk about electing more mothers and women to office. We will share the full interview on our blog soon. She is a true champion for mothers! . #covid_19 #covid19 #coronavirus #momsofinstagram #moms #momsofinstagram #momsinoffice #paidleave #paidfamilyleave #workingmothers

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Simona GraceSenator Gillibrand, thank you so much for speaking to me today, I am Simona Grace, founder of Moms in Office, a PAC helping to elect moms. And, I wanted to ask you as one of the 25 moms serving in Congress today, how can we get more moms in office?

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand– The first thing you do is tell them that their voice is needed, a lot of women don’t believe that their voice matters, or that they have the right qualifications, or the right experience to be in elected office. As soon as you tell them that you do have the right qualifications and in fact your experience as a mother is going to inform you and make you even a better advocate, they will feel more confident that they can run for office.

So you have to ask them and urge them and when they decide you got to help them. One of the reasons I founded Off the Sidelines was to ask more women to run for office, to ask more women to be advocates for the issues they care about and to ask more women to support women who are running if they are not willing to run themselves. So, we found over the last 8 years doing that work that the best way to get a woman to run is to ask her to run.

SG-What about your own experience as a mother, how did that inform your policy making, I know that you are a huge advocate for paid family leave, and you also sponsored the bill, the FAMILY ACT, did that inform your priorities in Congress, and what can you tell us about the FAMILY ACT and why it is so important?

SKG– Being a mom has absolutely informed my policy priorities, in Congress, because I have seen from my own experience and the moms that I have gotten to know over the years in public service how hard their lives can be, I realized pretty quickly when I was a young lawyer at a law firm that my law firm did not have a family leave policy, so I actually had to write it for my last law firm, and so when I got to the House and the Senate, I realized that it was really hard for working moms to balance so I really saw right away the need for a national paid leave.

About 5 years ago I started working on it with other House members and advocacy groups to write a comprehensive bill to have a national family paid leave program, and it is designed for men and women, for all life events, to be able to pay into a fund that they can draw down from when they need leave because they either have a new baby, a sick child, a sick spouse, a sick parent, a dying parent or they are ill themselves, and all those life events they can take up to 3 months off and get 66% of their wages up to about $4,00 a month and if they have those life events they can do it as often as they need to, it is self-sustaining, it pays for itself, because people buy in and businesses buy in, and it is not a lot of money.

It is basically 2.2% of someone’s income and on average that is about $2 a week.  So, for $2 a week every employer can offer their employees paid leave, for a small business that is very affordable, $104 a year per employee, it is the kind of common sense solution that could make paid leave a reality.

SG- Do you think if we had more moms in office would they put pressure on Congress to pass these bills and write these measures into Law? 

SKG– Yes. So when I was running for president I had a family bill of rights all informed by my experience being a mother and talking to other parents about the challenges they faced and one of the components is a national paid leave plan, if we had more moms in Congress they would understand the urgent need for this kind of support for our economy and for families in our communities and it would be law. So, yes if we had more moms in office, we would have national paid leave. 

SG- Thank you for your time today, thank you for running for president and for everything that you are doing for women. 

SKG– My pleasure, thank you Simona! 


You can learn more about the work Senator Gillibrand is doing by visiting her organization Off The Sidelines, and read up about the FAMILY ACT here. If your are reading this and interested in learning how to run for office, get in touch with Simona at Moms In Office.

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