Amanda and Justin: The Paid Family Leave All Families Deserve

Last summer, paid leave bought Justin and Amanda Aurelius something priceless: time off together with their new baby.

“It’s been the best time,” said Justin. “It’s like winning a lottery ticket, the time with your family, the bonding. We’re very lucky.”

The Granite Falls couple’s situation was much different following the birth of their first child, Marvin. Justin didn’t qualify for paid parental leave, and Amanda had a job in the private sector.

“I had a C-section,” said Amanda. “After 10 days, Justin was going back to work. I couldn’t lift Marvin the first six weeks. Financially, it was really difficult. We had to move in with my mother-in-law at one point.”

Today, Amanda and Justin work at an MSOCS group home, to help people with disabilities live more independent lives. The job is as demanding as it is rewarding. They work holidays, changing shifts and can work overnights. The people they serve have conditions ranging from schizophrenia to severe autism.

“I love giving back,” Justin says. “They smile and it will bring a big smile to your face, the improvement you see. The dignity of service, we give them the same service you’d give your mother. Every day you go in, you give them our best.”

With union-negotiated paid leave benefits, the couple was treated with the same dignity they provide to their clients when they had their second child. This time around, Amanda had time to heal. She had her husband by her side. They had time to bond with their new baby and help Marvin, now nearly two, adjust. And they didn’t take a big financial hit.

We wouldn’t have the life we have if it wasn’t for our union,” Amanda said.

Amanda and Justin’s story shows just how precious – and tenuous – paid leave benefits are for most working Minnesotans. For the Aurelius family, a job change meant the difference between struggling to get by and having the financial stability to care for their sons and invest in a new home for their growing family.

Thousands of Minnesota families have no paid leave benefits and are stuck with an impossible choice between paying their bills or caring for their families. Thousands more are a job change or a budget cut away from losing their paid leave benefits. Minnesotans shouldn’t have to worry about losing the benefit when they switch jobs – that’s bad for families, and bad for the economy. We’re all better off when everyone has the chance to build a good life.

All Minnesotans deserve the kind of paid leave that Amanda and Justin can count on. The paid family and medical leave proposal debated at the Minnesota Legislature this session would allow all workers up to twelve paid weeks off to take care of family members and up to twelve paid weeks for long-term medical care (including giving birth and adoption).

All Minnesotans deserve paid time to care for our loved ones and ourselves. It’s time for Minnesota to guarantee paid leave benefits for all families.