As Christians, we are called to live our values which include concern for one another, especially for our family. The Gospel story centers on a family, the birth of a young child who needed to be cared for by his parents, demonstrating the sacredness of the place of the family, whether through adoption or birth. As an adult, Jesus Christ healed sick and dying people, often through the faith and perseverance of family members who cared for them and sought healing. His life and teachings call on us to do all we can as a community to reflect his example, including advocating for public policy.
Government budgets are moral documents through which our values and beliefs as a country are put into practice. But for years we – as a nation and community – have failed in our support of caregivers. Too many people are forced to make impossible choices between looking after their families or keeping a job, putting their economic stability at risk. The lack of strong policies to meet the care needs creates huge gaps for families that they alone have to fill.
This pandemic has placed a magnifying glass on the shortcomings of our moral economy and exposed the systemic racism, classism and sexism that are ingrained in our society.
– Rev. Erin Tamayo and Alicia Contreras
One area where we need to do better is paid family and medical leave. Currently, only a few states guarantee access to some form of paid family and / or medical leave. In Arizona, even unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act is inaccessible for 63% workers.
Our communities are fighting to survive, and paid time off for all will Arizonas to prosper. That’s why we appeal to American Sense Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema support a national paid vacation program as part of ongoing congressional budget negotiations.
Paid leave for all would have many benefits for Arizona, from stimulating our economy to improving employee retention. Perhaps more importantly, ensuring paid time off for all would prevent Arizonans have to choose between their family and financial stability. More than 79,300 children were born in Arizona each year, and in 66% of Arizona households with children – over one million households – both parents have paid jobs.
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The lack of paid time off has personally affected both of our lives. I (Contreras) worked in the hospital while my mom battled cancer and recovered from major surgery on her spine. Me (Tamayo), as a mother of two young children, know the difficulty of balancing work responsibilities while tending to the unpredictability of health emergencies. For this reason, I left a fulfilling career in 2017 and have only just returned to part-time work. Paid leave for all would have allowed both of us to take care of our families and ourselves without having to sacrifice our careers.
Members of our faith communities have expressed similar concerns. During 2020, Corazon and other nonprofits have supported community members with small COVID-19 relief funds for those most affected by the pandemic. Sara, a community member from Tempe, experienced extreme hardship in August and was afraid to take the time necessary to self-quarantine for fear of losing her job. We were heartbroken to learn that she contracted COVID-19 and passed away in November 2020. Her husband is now left alone to care for their children while struggling to make ends meet.
This pandemic has put a magnifying glass on the shortcomings of our moral economy and exposed the the systemic racism, classism and sexism that are ingrained in our society. For our whole country to prosper, we must support policies such as child care and paid family leave that meet the real needs of working people.
We hope and pray that Senators Kelly and Sinema support paid time off for all which will be a transformation for all Arizonas.