Dear President Obama,
My name is Dawn… and I work full time in public policy as an advocate for people with disabilities in Georgia. Not only is this my chosen profession, but it is very personal to me as I have grown up with a significant physical disability. This has required that I rely on my family as well as paid caregivers to help me lead the independent life and work as I so choose.
Last February I was asked to testify at a Georgia House Committee hearing in support of HB 290, the Family Care Act. This bill would allow workers in Georgia to use sick time they earn through their employer policy to care for a family member. Many of the stakeholders that I advocate for are working people who also serve as primary caregivers for their family members with a disability. When that family member with a disability becomes ill, individuals often have to choose between caring for their sick family or going to work to keep the very job they depend on to support their family. If families are forced to take unpaid days when a family member becomes ill, then they risk losing wages or even putting their livelihood at risk if they lose their job. Losing wages can be a burden for any family, but this is especially true of families with an individual who has a disability. There are often many out-of-pocket costs as a result of the disability that are not covered by insurance. Furthermore, no one can care for a family member with a disability better than their own family.
On the day of this important Committee hearing my usual caregiver was ill, and despite many calls to line up a substitute caregiver for that morning, I was not able to find a last minute replacement. Because of my medical condition, I am not able to travel without the assistance of a caregiver. I was able to perform my advocacy job, and represent the thousands of families served by my organization only because my mother was able to take a day off work to accompany an assist me. I am fortunate that my mother’s employer allows her this flexibility – both to provide care if I need to go to the doctor, and to allow me to share my experience with members of the state legislature.
I appreciate all that you and your administration have done to advocate for working families who need new public policy – such as the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act in order to do their best on the job, while providing critical caregiving for family members.
I urge you to continue to use your office to build public awareness and support for these important policy solutions.