Every Oregonian should be able to give or get the care they need without risking their ability to pay the bills.

Whether it’s a birth or an adoption, needing to care for someone after getting treatment for an illness, or even to get care for yourself, almost everyone will need to take time off from work to deal with a family or medical issue.

But because Oregon doesn’t have a universal paid family and medical leave policy in place, the majority of us can’t actually afford to take time off when we need to. And because of the way our laws are currently written, many Oregonians and their family members aren’t legally covered under existing unpaid leave programs.

When hardworking Oregonians — whether they are women; Black, brown, or white; unmarried or low-wage workers — are faced with a family or medical issue, they’re forced to choose between putting food on the table or being with their family. And this has very real consequences for Oregon families.

Paid family and medical leave is good for all Oregonians, but it impacts our communities in different ways.

Women

In most families, it’s women who do most of the caregiving, whether it’s for children, other adults, or both. Paid family and medical leave will make it easier for women to stay in the workforce and continue bringing home the paychecks their families rely on. This will improve women’s ability to stay financially afloat, and ultimately, help narrow the gap between what men and women are paid.

Communities of Color

A long history of rigged rules and a broken system has hurt Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), making them more likely to work in low-paying jobs and have worse health outcomes than white people. Paid family and medical leave will help address the barriers that BIPOC face, allowing them to give or get the care they need without jeopardizing — or worsening — their ability to support themselves financially.

Aging Populations

As they age and require more support, many older Oregonians are going without the high quality care they need, are enduring personal challenges alone, or are being placed into costly, institutionalized care — all of which add to the financial and emotional strain that caregiving relatives may already be experiencing. Paid family and medical leave will allow more Oregonians to support aging loved ones and be there during a significant life event, like the end of a parents’ life.

Caring for family is important work, and doing it shouldn’t mean losing a paycheck. It’s time to level the playing field so that all workers can give or get the care they need without risking their financial stability.