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​House Leadership Adds 4 Weeks Paid Family Leave to Build Back Better Bill

​AARP has fought for benefits to help millions of family caregivers help loved ones

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Four weeks of paid family and medical leave has been restored to the Build Back Better legislation that is being finalized on Capitol Hill, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Nov. 3.

Pelosi announced her decision in a letter to House Democrats, saying many House members had been urging that this benefit — which had been removed from the legislative proposal during weeks of intense negotiations — be restored. The House is aiming toward voting for the Build Back Better measure and an infrastructure bill in tandem.

The Biden administration originally asked for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave but then agreed to four. As negotiations among members of the House and U.S. Senate continued, that benefit was stripped from the bill. The benefit that Pelosi is adding into the House measure would guarantee at least four weeks of paid leave for illness, the birth of a child or to take care of a sick loved one.

AARP has long fought for a paid family leave benefit, and research has found that COVID-19 has only added to the challenges the country's 48 million family caregivers face. A recent AARP survey found that stress levels are rising among those who have to balance caregiving and working from home during the pandemic and face growing anxiety about continuing to care for their loved ones, with 75 percent expressing anxiety about these dual roles.

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“Paid leave benefits would help millions of Americans support their loved ones while also protecting their financial security,” AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond said in a statement after Pelosi's announcement. "AARP has repeatedly called for Congress to support working family caregivers, and we urge you to seize the opportunity to include federal paid leave in the Build Back Better Act.

“Without the option to take paid leave, some caregivers cut back on their work hours or drop out of the workforce entirely," LeaMond said. "Family caregivers are less likely than parents to be offered paid leave by an employer — nearly 6 in 10 say their employer does not offer paid family leave. This makes it very difficult for them to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities, whether that’s being able to drive a loved one to a doctor’s appointment or take a few days off to help someone recovering from surgery." 

Dena Bunis covers Medicare, health care, health policy and Congress. She also writes the “Medicare Made Easy” column for the AARP Bulletin. An award-winning journalist, Bunis spent decades working for metropolitan daily newspapers, including as Washington bureau chief for the Orange County Register and as a health policy and workplace writer for Newsday.

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