Wednesday, May 26, 2010

America’s Budget Matters: So Does Yours

Our friends at Wider Opportunities for Women are hosting a "Budget Matters" Blogging Day today. They challenged people to blog about two questions: "What can President Obama and Congress do to help Americans be economically secure while balancing the budget? And what do President Obama and Congress need to know about your budget – or that of those you represent?" You can go to their site and blog your own answers to these questions, and see what other people have to say.

In every budget, families try to make contingency plans – to save money for unforeseen circumstances. But in this time of recession, when families are unemployed, underemployed, or facing wage freezes, making ends meet becomes more difficult every day. When something unpredicted happens – say, a family member who comes down with the flu or something worse – the effects are felt emotionally, physically, and monetarily.

In the United States, almost 2 in 5 private sector workers lack any access to paid sick time. When they, or their family members, are sick, these households must look for ways to stretch their incomes to cover unpaid time off, even though their budget may be past the breaking point. For some workers, taking sick time may mean they lose more than pay – it may mean the loss of a job. Only one in three low-wage workers has earned sick time, meaning they are particularly vulnerable to economic problems when they are unable to work due to an illness.

By 2012, one-half of all workers in the United States are expected to be a caregiver for an ill and aging family member. Already 64 percent of caregivers report the need to leave work early, come to work late, or take time off to care for an aging relative.

What does this have to do with Congress and your budget? Well, Congress can take action to ensure that workers have the opportunity to earn sick time and paid family leave. According to IWPR, passage of the Healthy Families Act would result in workers saving over $100 million per year in out-of-pocket expenses for the seasonal flu alone; paid family leave to care for elderly parents or other relatives could save over $700 million annually by avoiding temporary placement in care facilities.

Please ask Congress to take action on earned sick time and paid family leave today so that all families can have a balanced budget tomorrow.

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