Just weeks after finishing his last chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma, in the fall of 2020, Seth Morgan experienced a frightening change in mental status that puzzled doctors and landed him in the hospital for a month.
Morgan, 67, a retired physician who lives in Chevy Chase and also has multiple sclerosis, remembers little of the unexplained episode, which he likens to being in a coma.
When he was finally ready to come home, he knew that his wife would need help caring for him. Fortunately, Morgan says, his son lives in California—one of several states that have passed a paid family- and medical-leave law. So he was able to take time off from his job to fly home and help.
“It was a godsend,” Morgan says. “And it was comforting to know he was able to apply for a portion of his lost income.”
Morgan was already a vocal advocate for Marylanders with disabilities before his latest health scare, but he plans to be on the front lines in 2022, helping AARP and others lobby for similar paid leave for workers in his state.
Getting paid-leave legislation passed will be a top priority for AARP Maryland during the General Assembly session that convenes Jan. 12.
A measure introduced last year by state Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore) and Del. Kriselda Valderrama (D-Fort Washington) would have let employees take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to welcome a newborn, recover from a serious illness or care for a loved one, but it failed to gain traction.
Workers and employers would have contributed equally to the program through a payroll deduction. Employees who took leave would have received a percentage of their income up to $1,000 a week.
Proponents expect lawmakers to revive the bill in 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for such a law, since many people were forced to quit their jobs or take pay cuts to care for sick relatives, says Tammy Bresnahan, advocacy director for AARP Maryland.
“A lot of people are one sick family member away from not being able to pay their bills,” says Myles Hicks, director of the nonprofit Maryland Rise, which advocates for economic opportunities for all residents.
In a recent OpinionWorks poll, nearly 80 percent of Maryland voters supported deducting $3 to $6 a week from their paychecks for paid-leave benefits. The state has an estimated 790,000 family caregivers, many of whom work full-time, AARP research shows.
Some businesses have balked at the idea of paid leave, citing the cost and staffing gaps, but Bresnahan says that others see it as a benefit that can give them an edge in recruiting employees.
Other 2022 legislative priorities for AARP Maryland include:
- Improvements to, and stricter oversight of, long-term care facilities, including staffing, infection protocols and visitation procedures.
- Protecting the most vulnerable Marylanders age 50-plus from abuse and exploitation.
- Expanded access to affordable high-speed internet.
- Greater protections for consumers who participate in the retail energy market.
- A plan and funding to address the behavioral and cognitive health needs of older adults.
To become an AARP advocacy volunteer, email Tammy Bresnahan at email@example.com or call 866-542-8163.
Natalie Missakian is a writer living in Cheshire, CT.
For More on Caregiving