New Survey Shows Urgent Need for Paid Leave as “Tripledemic” Tore Through Families This Winter, Leaving Them in Financial Crisis

March 28, 2023

ParentsTogether Action, a nonprofit family advocacy group with more than 3 million parent members, released a member survey of more than 500 parents about the “tripledemic” of Covid, flu, and RSV, and how illness in their families has had outsized negative effects on their income this year.

The survey found that 61% of respondents said they had experienced more illness this year than the year before, and 56% said they experienced more illness than 2 years before, which was during the peak of Covid. 

As a result of this illness, 74% of respondents said they needed to miss work to care for themselves or a sick family member. 

Children were missing lots of school or daycare with:

  • 29% of respondents said their kid(s) had to miss 1-5 days of school or daycare
  • 24% said their kids had to miss 6-10 days 
  • 28% said their kids had to miss 11+ days 

The survey found that lack of paid sick leave to care for themselves or an ill family member  has put a particular strain on families. Less than 1 in 5 respondents reported having paid leave for all of the time needed. 40% said they needed to take unpaid leave and concerningly, an additional 11% said they needed to leave their job or were fired because of the time they took off.

This lack of paid leave resulted in a loss of income that put considerable strain on families across the country. 64% of respondents reported that lost  income this year due to illness of themselves or their children made it harder for their families to make ends meet. Among them:

  • 38% of respondents lost more than $1,000 worth of income
  • 8% of respondents reported they lost more than $5,000 in income

As a result of the loss of income, 44% reported having to cut back on non-essential expenses ( extracurriculars, vacations, or meals out), 30% had to dip into their savings in order to get by), 28% were unable to pay for other essential items ( gas, clothes, diapers, formula, period supplies), and 23% were  unable to afford enough food.

These vast challenges have occurred at a time when parents have also experienced cuts in benefits as pandemic related assistance expired. In March 2023,  ‘emergency allotments’ to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that provided at least $95 extra per month per household to spend on food, expired. The ending of these emergency benefits comes as Republicans in Congress propose cutting federal food assistance even more dramatically  amidst debt ceiling talks. 

“Three years after the global pandemic hit, families across the United States have been abandoned as they navigate illness in their families while trying to make ends meet and provide for their children. For millions of parents, lack of paid leave has resulted in losses in income that push their family further into financial crisis,” said Ailen Arreaza, Executive Director of ParentsTogether Action. “It’s long past time that politicians who claim to want to help families get serious about passing legislation to guarantee  paid leave for all. As this winter proved, American families can’t wait any longer.” 

Quotes from ParentsTogether members on how difficult the “tripledemic” has been on their family:

“I can’t buy enough food for my family because they cut back SNAP benefits. I can’t buy my children clothes and shoes right now, I can’t buy myself food, clothes, or shoes. I mean if I was able to hold a job sure, but my children get too sick too much for me to be going into a job every day. It is hell.”
-Emily, Pennsylvania

“I lost my house, my utilities got shut off, can’t afford anything. If you’re still living day by day and you miss a day of work it messes up every paycheck.” 
-Bobbi, Illinois

“We had to use what little we had in our savings account to make ends meet when our daughter was sick, and start all over again with creating savings. My husband has paid leave with one of his jobs, but not with the other. The one with paid sick leave makes us feel so secure in knowing that if we get sick & he has to miss that job; our world isn’t going to fall apart around us.” 
-Kelly, Massachusetts

“I lost my income, do not receive child support, and only receive SNAP. My child and I are facing eviction & homelessness. I have had to borrow money to get by and ask for others to buy myself medicine when I got sick as well. My child has been fighting a respiratory disease for a year now and I have not been able to get a job outside of the home nor afford a car to be able to get one. The little money I do have goes to buying essentials for my child.”
-Jess, Delaware

“Having to mentally juggle when I will get my work done and how we will get by financially in that moment that my child wakes up sick or I get a call from the school nurse takes away from my ability to center my child and their health. Paid leave ensures parents can keep their children and themselves emotionally and physically (and financially) healthy.”
-Stephanie, New Jersey

“I have nearly daily panic attacks worrying about my bills and how to get them paid, only to go through it the next month all over again. [Paid leave] gives you a little breathing room so you’re not completely broke.”
-Bridgette, Wyoming