May 10, 2019

Ahead of Mother’s Day, Duckworth Highlights Slate of Bills to Help Working Families in Chicago and Across the Nation


[CHICAGO, IL] – Joined by women’s advocates and worker’s advocates in Chicago just days before Mother’s Day, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) highlighted her newly-announced package of family-friendly policy proposals today. Duckworth’s new proposals would make workplaces more family-friendly, improve childcare services, make it easier for low-income and middle-class families to obtain diapers for their children and close loopholes that prevent many educational support staff from being able to take medical leave through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Duckworth, an advocate for mothers and working families, was joined today by Assistant Director of the Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Cindy San Miguel, Medela Executive Vice President Melissa Gonzales, President of UNITE HERE Local 1 Karen Kent and working moms to introduce her new proposals. Photos and video are available from today’s press conference.

“I’m endlessly grateful that my colleagues changed chamber rules to allow me and all future parents in the Senate to fulfill our responsibilities to both the Constitution and our newborns, but I’ll also never understand how it took 229 years for the Senate to adopt a policy that allows us working moms to work,” Duckworth said. “My experiences as a working parent help me understand how making our policies friendlier to working families helps parents stay in the workforce. I’m proud to be introducing these bills that create a program to promote family-friendly workplaces, improve childcare services for parents working to get their degree and make sure no child goes without the diapers they desperately need.”

The following bills were introduced today by Senator Duckworth:

  • The End Diaper Need Act would create a $100 million block grant program within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assist state and local agencies, nonprofit entities and tribal organizations with helping low-income families get the diapers their children need. Those agencies and organizations awarded grants would be required to have local experience in basic need services, child care, child development activities in low-income areas, or parenthood education efforts serving low-income communities. The legislation would also help middle class families by making diapers eligible for purchase through Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA’s). U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is a co-sponsor of the End Diaper Need Act and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) introduced the End Diaper Need Act in the House of Representatives.
  • The ESP Family Leave Act would update the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to help more educational support professionals (ESP) at schools – teacher’s assistants, custodians and maintenance staff, among others – access its benefits without the risk of losing their job. The bill would build on a provision enacted in 2009 to help more airline flight crews receive FMLA benefits. Because some ESPs work only during the school year or fewer than eight hours a day, many struggle to clear FMLA’s 1,250 hours of service threshold. The ESP Family Leave Act would update the FMLA so that all ESPs who work more than 60 percent of the total monthly hours expected for their specific role are able to access benefits. One out of every three public school employees is an ESP, and there are over 2.7 million ESPs across the country working in public schools and colleges. U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are co-sponsoring this legislation.
  • The Honoring Family-Friendly Workplaces Act would create a certification program run by the U.S. Department of Labor to recognize exemplary family friendly businesses. The certification program would evaluate businesses on a number of policies, including paid sick days for workers, child care subsidies, lactation support, reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, assistance paying for or referring workers to fertility adoption services, paid family leave of at least 12 weeks per year and flexible hours once parents return to work after a birth, adoption, or faster care placement. This program would be similar to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program, which makes it easier for consumers to identify products that are energy efficient. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is co-sponsoring this legislation.
  • The Expanding On-Campus Child Care to Help Parents Succeed Act would increase access to on-campus child care for low-income student parents, improve oversight of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program and ensure the department is meeting the needs of our nation’s student parent population. The bill funds the CCAMPIS program at $200 million annually, allowing CCAMPIS grantees to offer childcare subsidies or a sliding fee scale to low-income parents and allowing ED to give performance bonuses to schools that demonstrate success in serving a significant number of student-parents. U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) are co-sponsoring this legislation.

Senator Duckworth has been a strong advocate for women and families during both her service in the House and Senate. Last October, Duckworth’s bipartisan Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act to provide nursing mothers with private, clean and accessible lactation rooms was signed into law after passing both the House and Senate overwhelmingly. In 2018, Duckworth became the first sitting U.S. Senator to give birth, which led to a historic rules change to make the Senate friendlier for working parents by allowing all Senators to bring their infant children onto the Senate floor, if necessary, during votes while their children are under the age of one.

Duckworth also wrote an op-ed last year describing her experiences as a working mother and calling on Congress to take action on family-friendly legislation, including the FAMILY Act, which would establish a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who need time to care for a newborn or adopted child, a seriously ill family member or their own serious health condition.