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LA's First Lady Raises Awareness About Paid Family Leave Benefits

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

Mayor Eric Garcetti's wife made her speaking debut before Los Angeles City Council today as part of an effort to raise awareness about paid family leave benefits already available to Californians.

Amy Elaine Wakeland's first public comments before the council came in response to a resolution introduced by Councilwoman Nury Martinez that advocates for the FAMILY Act, a federal bill that would "provide workers across the country partial income when taking leave from work."

California was the first state in the country to adopt laws ensuring workers get paid leave benefits while they take time off to care for sick family members or spend time with newborns, Wakeland said.     But "awareness" of such rights, which have been in place for at least a decade, "is lowest among those who are the most vulnerable in our city -- immigrants and those who live in poverty, among others," she said.

"We all know getting children off to a good start is an important factor in children's success in school and an important part of helping that child, once an adult, and his or her family stay out of poverty," Wakeland said. "Families are more important in the lives of children than any of our social institutions."

The council voted 14-0 to support the FAMILY Act. Modeled after California's paid family leave law, it would offer up to 12 weeks of paid benefits, as well as protections to ensure workers do not lose their jobs if they take time off to care for sick family members or spend time with newborns, according to Martinez.

The councilwoman said she is also hoping to raise awareness among Angelenos, who she said are the least aware among Californians of paid family leave rights adopted 12 years ago.

The councilwoman also introduced a motion today that would direct city staff to put up posters at libraries, recreation centers and other city buildings informing people of their paid family leave rights. She is also requesting that the city's Commission on Status of Women organize an awareness campaign on the California Paid Family Leave program.

The federal act now working its way through Congress would add paid leave benefits to existing laws protecting workers against retaliation and the threat of job loss for those who wish to take time off to bond with their young children and to care for their "loved ones," according to Martinez.

The councilwoman said she benefited from California's laws when she gave birth five years ago. The protections and paid time off gave her the opportunity to treat her postpartum depression and "difficulties with nursing," Martinez said, and to bond with her newborn.

"So many of our families deserve the same thing," she said.

—City News Service

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