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Duchess Meghan urges Congress to implement comprehensive paid leave program: 'A national right'

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Duchess Meghan is urging for a comprehensive paid leave program in a powerful open letter to Congress.

In a letter addressed to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the Duchess of Sussex detailed the importance of a paid leave policy amid news that funding for President Joe Biden's paid leave plan could be left out of an expansive social safety net bill.

As of Wednesday, the Democrats are hoping to agree to a legislative package between $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion for Biden's agenda, which seeks to transform the economy with higher taxes on high-income earners and corporations to pay for free community college, universal prekindergarten, subsidized child care, national paid leave and other social safety net priorities.

"Because you and your congressional colleagues have a role in shaping family outcomes for generations to come, that’s why I’m writing to you at this deeply important time—as a mom—to advocate for paid leave," Meghan wrote on behalf of the Paid Leave for All campaign.

The Duchess started the letter by highlighting the toll of the pandemic on many mothers, who have endured layoffs and stayed home with their children amid daycare closures.

"The working mom or parent is facing the conflict of being present or being paid. The sacrifice of either comes at a great cost."

Like many mothers, Meghan said she also understands the hardships of "giving time, body and endless energy not just in the pursuit of the American dream, but simply the dream of stability." She recalled days in her childhood when her parents worked to afford even a $4.99 salad bar, and said she took on babysitting and waitressing jobs as early as age 13 "to cover odds and ends."

Duchess Meghan of Sussex penned a powerful letter to Congress urging for a paid leave program.
Duchess Meghan of Sussex penned a powerful letter to Congress urging for a paid leave program.

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"I worked all my life and saved when and where I could—but even that was a luxury—because usually it was about making ends meet and having enough to pay my rent and put gas in my car," she wrote.

"People in our country work incredibly hard, and yet the ask is soft: for a level playing field to achieve their version of a common dream—what is fair, and equal, and right. Many of our economic systems are past their expiration date, and as you well know, too many Americans are forced to shortchange themselves when it comes to what matters to them."

Though Meghan, who recently welcomed her second child Lilibet in June, acknowledged her financial privileges today, she said more federal actions must be taken to protect less fortunate families across the country.

"Like fewer parents, we weren’t confronted with the harsh reality of either spending those first few critical months with our baby or going back to work. We knew we could take her home, and in that vital (and sacred) stage, devote any and everything to our kids and to our family. We knew that by doing so we wouldn’t have to make impossible choices about childcare, work, and medical care that so many have to make every single day."

Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry welcomed their second child together, Lilibet, in June.
Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry welcomed their second child together, Lilibet, in June.

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She continued: "No family should be faced with these decisions. No family should have to choose between earning a living and having the freedom to take care of their child (or a loved one, or themselves, as we would see with a comprehensive paid leave plan)."

To conclude, Meghan called for a comprehensive paid leave program that is "guaranteed, accessible and encouraged" for millions of American families.

"In taking care of your child, you take care of your community, and you take care of your country—because when paid leave is a right, we’re creating a foundation that helps address mental health outcomes, health care costs, and economic strength at the starting line," she wrote, adding that paid leave should be "a national right."

"I know how politically charged things can—and have—become. But this isn’t about Right or Left, it’s about right or wrong. This is about putting families above politics. And for a refreshing change, it’s something we all seem to agree on. At a point when everything feels so divisive, let this be a shared goal that unites us."

She ended her letter with a plea from her family: Archie, Lili and Prince Harry: "I thank you for considering this letter, and on behalf of all families, I ask you to ensure this consequential moment is not lost."

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Contributing: Joey Garrison

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Duchess Meghan urges Congress to implement paid leave program

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