Paid Family and Medical leave will be a high priority for AARP Oregon during the 2019 Legislature.

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 a medical issue at some point. But because Oregon doesn’t have a universal paid family and medical leave policy in place, the majority of Oregonians can’t actually afford to do so.

In fact, only 1 in 10 people has access to paid family and medical leave through work. And the United States is 1 of only 2 nations in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid leave of any kind.

This leaves most of us with no choice but to give up our paychecks so that we can give — or get — much-needed care. On top of the emotional and financial stress that a family or medical issue already brings, this can easily throw a family into poverty. And it just isn’t right.

This causes extreme financial stress for workers, and in particular for women, workers of color, unmarried workers, and low-wage workers. And it puts many of us in a tough spot: Either be there for your family and risk your economic stability, or miss out on important life events that happen to all of us, from birth to death and everything in between.

This is especially true when it comes to parents or other relatives who may need increased care or support as they age. As the need for eldercare is rising, so is the cost of it. This means that a lot of Oregonians (who may have children of their own to care for) end up providing that care for their parents — taking time off of work to get them to doctors appointments, helping with recovery after surgery, or providing in-home support. Nearly two-thirds of workers between the ages of 45 and 74 provide care to an aging loved one, and they do so while risking their own economic security.

The good news is, we can change this. AARP Oregon, Family Forward and many other advocates are taking this issue to the Oregon Legislature in 2019. We can make it so that every one of us, no matter where we work, can take care of our families and ourselves without risking debt. Visit www.timefororegon.org and click on “Take Action” to join the effort to pass paid family and medical leave in 2019.

And if you are a person who needs, or has needed, paid family and medical leave, we’d love to hear your story! write to oraarp@aarp.org, subject line “story,” and we will connect with you!