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Month: September 2020

What We’re Watching in Congress – Fall 2020

With the end of the fiscal year rapidly approaching and the election less than two months away, Congress has a number of priorities that they are hoping to take care of before Senators and Representatives head back to their home states to campaign. The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the possible Senate consideration of a nominee to fill her seat, further complicates the Congressional schedule. Nevertheless, the House has recently passed a number of important bills crucial to the health and well-being of families in the 1,000-day window.

Here are a few things we have been keeping an eye on:

Progress on a CR

After several weeks of negotiations, House Democrats and the White House have reached a deal to extend government funding through December 11th. The continuing resolution, passed by a sizable bipartisan majority in the House earlier this week, includes important funding for numerous child nutrition programs. The Pandemic-EBT program established under the CARES Act this fall, which allows families to receive a cash benefit for the meals that their children would otherwise receive at school, has been extended to cover younger children through the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Additionally, the waiver authority which has allowed the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to continue serving families without requiring in-person clinic visits has been extended through the end of Fiscal Year 2021. WIC waivers have been incredibly successful in allowing pregnant women, moms and young children to receive the nourishing food, breastfeeding support and nutrition services they need to stay healthy during the pandemic, while protecting the well-being of WIC staff. We applaud the extension of these programs which provide critical support to help families have the healthiest first 1,000 days.

The Senate is expected to vote on the CR in the coming days, averting the threat of an upcoming shutdown. 1,000 Days urges Congress to build on this bipartisan success and pass a full government funding package for FY21, ensuring that all families can access the services and programs they need to stay healthy and secure during this crisis.

Stalled negotiations on further COVID relief

Unfortunately, Congressional leaders have not been able to come to an agreement on a fourth coronavirus relief package. As the nation passes the grim milestone of more than 200,000 dead from COVID-19, negotiations between the White House and Congressional leadership appear to have stalled. 1,000 Days once again calls upon Congress to pass a robust relief package including full funding for USAID anti-hunger programs, an extension and expansion of the emergency paid leave provisions established in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, increased funding and flexibility for crucial nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC and additional funding to states to provide health insurance to low- and moderate-income families through Medicaid.

Legislation to support moms and babies advances in the House

Last week, the House passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Rep. Nadler, D-NY) with a strong, bipartisan majority. This commonsense bill requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and ensures that workers cannot be discriminated or retaliated against for seeking those accommodations. 1,000 Days submitted testimony in support of PWFA when it was under consideration by the Education and Labor Committee earlier this year and we are thrilled to see its overwhelming passage.

This week, the House also approved two important measures by unanimous voice vote. The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act (Rep. Engel, D-NY) is an important step in addressing the staggering racial and ethnic health disparities in maternal health outcomes. This bill authorizes several grants for innovation in maternal and infant health care, in addition to improving data collection and coordination on maternal health outcomes, providing the CDC and NIH with valuable information to better understand the scope of the maternal health crisis. Finally, the Global Child Thrive Act also passed the House this week, reauthorizing a number of important early childhood development programs, including vital nutrition programming for children in the 1,000-day window, at USAID. 1,000 Days applauds the passage of these important bills and urges the Senate to bring them to the floor for consideration promptly.

Bipartisan legislation to provide insurance to newborns introduced

This week, Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) introduced the No Surprises for New Moms Act, which would automatically enroll newborns in health insurance for the first 30 days of life and simplify the subsequent process for enrolling them in coverage. This legislation is especially timely, as September marks NICU Awareness Month. For families with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, life is stressful enough without having to stress about deadlines for insurance coverage or surprise bills. 1,000 Days is proud to endorse this commonsense bills to support moms, babies and their families.

Coalition efforts drive support for paid leave

Building on the success of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which established the first ever federal paid family and medical leave program, more than a dozen lawmakers have agreed to cosponsor the FAMILY Act in recent weeks. A broad coalition of organizations supporting paid leave, including maternal and child health organizations like 1,000 Days, as well as racial and economic justice organizations, labor unions, LGBTQ rights advocacy groups, disability justice groups and many others, have shown the breadth of interest in paid leave and  its importance to American families, especially during this once in a generation pandemic. Recent FAMILY Act supporters include members of House leadership, Reps. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Steny Hoyer (D-MA), as well as Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). 1,000 Days is proud to work alongside these amazing advocates and we hope to build on these successes with our new qualitative paid leave report, which shares the stories of 20 new moms to show why, now more than ever, paid leave is a public health imperative.

ICYMI: Healthy People 2030 Sets Public Health Targets for Next Decade

Every 10 years the federal Healthy People initiative sets goals and measurable objectives to improve the health and well-being of the United States. Last month, Healthy People 2030 launched with a slate of objectives to address the most high-impact public health issues over the next decade.

1,000 Days has been monitoring the development of Healthy People 2030 to ensure the new targets focus on a healthy first 1,000 days for moms and babies. It has been especially important to track this process because of one major change to Healthy People 2030: the number of objectives was dramatically reduced in comparison Healthy People 2020, with the intention of prioritizing only the most pressing public health issues. This means that many objectives in Healthy People 2020 were eliminated from Healthy People 2030.

1,000 Days submitted comments last year urging the Healthy People initiative to retain critical objectives related to nutrition, health care, and social determinants of health for moms and babies. Good news! The Healthy People initiative heard us – along with the voices of our partners and members of the public who submitted comments alongside us.

Healthy People 2030 includes a robust (though streamlined) set of targets for a healthy first 1,000 days. Objectives address critical topics such as accessing prenatal care, reducing preterm births, reducing maternal and infant mortality, increasing screening for postpartum depression, improving diets, and breastfeeding. You can explore the full set of Healthy People 2030 objectives here.

We are especially thrilled that Healthy People 2030 includes 2 objectives related to breastfeeding. Originally, the list of proposed objectives for Healthy People 2030 included only 1 breastfeeding objective – a major reduction from the 8 objectives that were part of Healthy People 2020. But, 1,000 Days and others spoke up about the importance of breastfeeding for the health of moms and babies, and they listened. Healthy People 2030 now includes the following 2 breastfeeding objectives:

We are also pleased that Healthy People 2030 includes 2 objectives related to reducing food insecurity. The original list of proposed objectives included only 1 food insecurity objective, whereas Healthy People 2020 had previously included 2 objectives. 1,000 Days urged the Healthy People initiative to retain both objectives – one focused on household hunger and one focused on child hunger – and they did. Healthy People 2030 now includes these 2 food insecurity objectives:

There is an old cliché that says, “what gets measured, gets done,” so the inclusion of these objectives in Healthy People 2030 is a win for moms and babies across the country!

To learn more about Healthy People 2030, visit HealthyPeople.gov.

The Case for Paid Leave in the United States: Brianna’s Story

Our latest report, Qualitative Paid Leave Report 2020: Furthering Our Case for Paid Leave in the United States, is based on a study we commissioned to examine how lack of paid leave affects the well-being of new mothers and their babies, particularly women working in low-wage jobs, and to amplify the experiences of low-wage working mothers in their own words. By interviewing and surveying 20 women in five states that did not require workers to have access to paid leave, we learned about how mothers navigate the experiences, demands and joys of motherhood. Brianna was one of the study participants. She offered to share her story.

My name is Brianna Smith, and this is my story about being a low-wage worker and dealing with an unexpected, complicated pregnancy.

Two days before I was set to marry my now-husband, Gerald, I found out I was pregnant. I had a thought that I might be, so even though we were in Philadelphia for the wedding, which was a five-hour drive from our home in rural Erie, Pennsylvania, I found a doctor to confirm it before I helped myself to the open bar at our reception. What a way to begin a marriage! If it had been on our time, we would have waited a year before having a child. We had to restructure our budgeting to account for our baby, but we were fortunate enough to both be employed. I had been working for a big name, national bank for almost three years when I found out I was pregnant, and I very much enjoyed my job helping people plan financially and become more financially educated.

Early on in the pregnancy, we realized we would have to overcome many obstacles to receive decent health care. In Erie we faced several issues because of our race — some doctors were blatant about how they did not want me as a patient because I’m a black woman. One doctor said treatment was a little less specific in his office for ethnic couples. (Ethnic? But we’re American…) After my first ER visit where they tried to give me painkillers that are dangerous for a fetus, we ended up driving the five hours to see Dr. Cook, the doctor who confirmed our pregnancy, as often as we could.

My entire pregnancy felt like a fight, not just for my life but for my baby’s. My morning sickness and my body’s ability to recognize water were severe, which made getting to work by 8 a.m. difficult. Once at work I would spend much of the day in the bathroom, and the exhaustion was out of this world. Instead of eating, I would nap in the conference room during my lunch break. My colleagues graciously stepped in for me when I had to dart to the bathroom in the middle of a meeting with a client. Then, at 12 weeks, I experienced stabbing abdominal pain and visual disorientation. After blood testing at the ER (in Philadelphia, five hours away), I learned I was having issues with my gall bladder, and suddenly my pregnancy became high risk, requiring me to be monitored weekly. We realized that staying in Erie could be detrimental to my health and my baby’s, so we decided to begin the process of transferring our jobs to Philadelphia where my baby and I could be properly cared for.

My husband’s work was accommodating with the transfer, and I thought mine was as well. I signed paperwork stating that my transfer was approved, I completed online orientation for my new position and I was supposed to start the following Monday. We packed up our apartment and drove a moving truck to Philadelphia on December 18, and a couple of days later, on a Friday, I received a phone call from HR letting me know that my transfer had been rescinded due to an inability to comply with the attendance policy. In retrospect, my manager in Erie was unhappy with me showing up to work late and taking so many breaks, but I thought he understood my situation, and because my coworkers covered me, I thought everything was okay. I was tricked, and losing my job was a huge confidence blow.

Savanna was born early, at 35 weeks, because my bile levels were elevated, which could have made her liver work harder and sooner than it’s supposed to. Thankfully she was healthy and did not have to spend much time in the hospital, but I was not okay. I had put so much energy into getting her here safely that once she was born all the negativity I was trying to block from her just flooded me. My husband was able to take off work about four days, and during that time he made sure Savanna didn’t feel any of the negativity that was starting to consume me. I stayed with my mother for two weeks so I wouldn’t be alone, and he would visit after work. I’m so lucky to have had my mother’s support, but spouses or partners are supposed to be by the mother’s side throughout the journey, and paid leave for them is just as important as it is for the woman giving birth.

Mothers and fathers deserve time to adjust to their new roles as parents. We deserve time to be able to get to know the children we birth without the mental duress or anticipation of returning to work looming over us. Pregnant women deserve time to be able to get comfortable with the changes they are going through and should have the support they need for medical expenses. If she needs extra time in the morning to get herself together and make sure the baby’s okay, a pregnant woman should be able to do that without being concerned with whether she’s going to lose her job. I don’t think it’s right that, as a pregnant woman who’s literally living for another person, I had to fight and continually look over my shoulder because the system was against me.

Watch Brianna talk about her experience here.

For more about the report, our work with paid leave and how you can help, visit here.