Rep. Colin Allred (top left), Texas Democrat, leads a virtual panel discussion on paid family leave in the United States as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 50th Annual Legislative Conference. Joining Allred on the panel are (clockwise from top right) Jocelyn Frye, Kimberly Jeffries Leonard and Nelly Cuenca.
Rep. Colin Allred (top left), Texas Democrat, leads a virtual panel discussion on paid family leave in the United States as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 50th Annual Legislative Conference. Joining Allred on the panel are (clockwise from top right) Jocelyn Frye, Kimberly Jeffries Leonard and Nelly Cuenca.

Lawmakers in eight states and the District of Columbia implemented laws to offer paid family leave, to which employees and employers make certain financial contributions, the National Conference of State Legislature notes.

However, rules and regulations differ in each jurisdiction that’s driving one congressman’s push for a national paid family leave policy.

Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), who led a virtual chat Sept. 15 during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 50th annual legislative conference, said the United States represents the only country among 41 other peer nations without a national paid leave policy.

“I want to make sure the overwhelming benefits to the entire family…that having paid leave is available to every American,” he said during the nearly 40-minute virtual discussion. “Right now, that’s not the reality for most Americans, especially for Black and brown families. “These realities are unacceptable in the United States of America and we have to do something about it.”

In March, the congressman from Dallas took one month of paternity to help his wife take care of their newborn son, Cameron. Allred took similar leave in 2019 after the couple’s first son, Jordan.

He became the first member of Congress to take such leave.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden proposed for employers to provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave paid for through new federal taxes.

In the meantime, organizers of a “Paid Leave for All” campaign want a comprehensive plan passed by 2023.

Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the women’s initiative with Center for American Progress in northwest D.C., said Black women lead among all women who are the main caregivers of their families.

“For Black women, the decision to participate in the paid workforce is not an option. It’s a necessity,” said Frye, who’s also part of the Paid Leave for All initiative. “Paid family leave for Black families is quite timely and long overdue.”

Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, who serves on the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s board of directors, said her sister-in-law takes care of both the home and the care of Leonard’s older brother as he fights his second bout of cancer.

“My sister-in-law is trying to manage how she’s working and how she manages giving him the care that [her husband] needs,” she said. “If you don’t have that safety net, then you are worrying about how can I financially address this? What is my choice? Either I have to give care, or I have to leave my job.”

Unfortunately, thousands of Black and Latino are single mothers without assistance from the father.

That’s why Nelly Cuenca of Dallas created a nonprofit organization to support single mothers such as herself. Her group called MaaPaa, which stands for “Mama/Papa” named by her five-year-old son, specifically helps mothers raising sons.

“The mothers that we serve don’t have a support system and many times they are moving away from a toxic environment,” Cuenca said. “We need to understand that the support is needed for them to be empowered in order for them to gain freedom and financial stability with a one-household income.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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