Members of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) share and amplify their stories on the importance of healthcare and paid family leave in Colorado that would include all members of our communities:
At 50, my father had knee surgery to help him heal, work and live his life with less discomfort. As a Mexican-immigrant family, we had no idea what FMLA meant. FMLA allowed for time to rest for recovery, however, it did not include paid leave to help support our daily expenses. This left our family without a paid family leave option, which onset added stressors.
In a household of five, only two members were now providing in which my mother was the only supporter for our family as a warehouse worker and our stress was at an all-time high. While working she suffered a panic attack due to the stress of working and now taking care of our loved one. My mother was sent to the hospital and offered FMLA; once her FMLA was over she was let go from her job. We were desperate. Our household like many others live paycheck to paycheck to meet our needs. At this time, we made do with the little that we had.
Now the household expenses were supported by two members, and more importantly, our household also needed support for my 8-year-old nephew who has special needs. An additional struggle was not only the loss of income but the inconsistencies of Medicaid and Medicare programs. With special needs children, the programs were costly and there were not many Spanish speaking specialists. Our health insurance had changed and so did the access to the programs.
It’s been three years and we are still feeling the economic hardship. It was hard to recover our finances. During times like these, it’s essential to have a paid family and medical leave. We need the self-assurance that we are able to take care of ourselves and loved ones in times of hardship. There must not be a multitude of obstacles to receive necessary care. No one should feel the uncertainty of how to pay for their bills or make ends meet.
More importantly, we need a medical and paid family leave because no one should have to choose between a job and their loved ones.
**Victoria Gomez Betancourt pic here**
Victoria Gomez Betancourt’s Story
I am the sole caretaker and provider for an elderly, disabled parent who lives with advanced multiple sclerosis and dementia and is wheelchair-bound. We are a one-income household, I am disabled, and our migratory status prevents us from accessing public programs. For families like mine, paid family and medical leave is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity. However, the recent proposal for paid family and medical leave does little to ensure workers like me will have access. A private program is inherently flawed and will exacerbate problems experienced by my community.
I am at risk of discrimination from employers because of perceived potential for diminished productivity. Having a physical disability simply impacts the type of employment I can secure and maintain. Having a dependent whose health progressively debilitates, and therefore increases the demands on my caretaking responsibilities, can potentially impact my ability to work. In other words, an employer could easily decide not to hire me given my likelihood of using the benefit.
Further, the current proposal conveys the risk of losing any protections that may be included if changes are made to the legislation by future administrations. Should my elder’s health or my disability require me to take time away from my job in order to care for her or tend to my own wellbeing, access barriers compounded by an absence of job protections could ensure catastrophe. Career changes and fluctuations in employment, which many immigrants face, require portability. For those living with chronic conditions, gaps in eligibility can be devastating. Health is a human right and this proposal does little to ensure that all who need paid leave will receive the time they need for care.
This moment in time has been scary. For everyone. For my family. I live here in Colorado, but my mom and younger brother live in California.
Earlier in the week my mom called me, stressed, worried, and needing help. Even though my mom has the option to work from home, California has put in new e-schooling requirements for students and teachers. For most families, this can work for their children, but my younger brother goes to a special education school for children on the autism spectrum. Special education programs will oftentimes look different than a traditional classroom setting, but both are now mandated to e-school. For my brother, that means he is no longer able to work one-on-one with a teacher, use the tools that his school was able to offer him (such as his speech application on the school’s specialized tablets), have a respite caretaker come into our home, and ultimately stay in his routine that is fundamental to how he interacts with the world.
My family now has to figure out how to best care for my brother so he can remain happy and healthy at home, and now how to balance meeting the ‘data collection’ that the state is now requiring of parents and teachers. For a single mother who has a large workload and now needs to be a full-time caretaker for my brother, it is not obtainable.
Having to choose between making rent, buying food, and inserting data to make sure a child with disabilities is not left behind is an impossible choice. It is not an option for my family nor should it be a decision made by any family like ours. If a public paid family leave program was set in place, this would not have to be a decision of survival.
Our country was not prepared to adapt special education programs and as a result, it puts the most vulnerable of our community members at risk, including my family. We need paid family leave. If not for the millions of people who have lost their jobs in this crisis, but for families like mine who are forgotten about time and time again. A private program would further push my family and others to the side and leave them behind. This is no longer about choice, but a necessary step to responding to a crisis.
The Colorado Organization Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) represents and advocates for all Latinxs communities living in Colorado.
For More Colorado Commentary: WWW.ELSEMANARIOCOLORADO.COM
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