This past year will be remembered for quite a long time, and not necessarily in a good way. At a time when families most wanted to be together – to help care for sick relatives – many were unable to do so.

It doesn’t take a pandemic to cause disruptions in our lives, though.

Even before COVID, almost half of North Dakota’s workforce was unable to earn a single sick day, leaving them to choose between keeping their jobs or taking care of a parent, spouse, or child when illness hit. With 11,000 babies born every year in our state, new moms and dads often face the same choice as caregivers.

We can change that, however. Legislators are again debating a paid family leave bill this year. The bill is HB 1441 and it offers a voluntary, not mandatory, paid family leave program that would help employees replace lost wages if they need time off from work to take care of a new baby or a sick family member.

More and more states are looking into this idea. Just about all the other developed countries in the world already have it. It’s a pro-family bill that will help thousands of North Dakotans when they need to be with family.

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Let’s respond to 2020 by doing the right things in 2021. Passing HB 1441, paid family leave, would be a great start.

Melissa Gjellstad, Grand Forks