Mom of child with cancer testifies to Congress about need for paid leave

Jacqui Silvani’s son was just 2 years old when he was diagnosed with a cancer of the nerve endings in 2015.

"I had only one thought,” Silvani said. “I needed to save my child's life."

Silvani works as a teacher in New Hampshire and did not get paid leave when she needed to take time off to be with Joe during his treatment.

Instead, she said her husband’s job at an auto dealership had to cover all expenses including Joe’s mounting medical bills.

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"Losing my income in the midst of this nightmare meant my son's medical crisis was also a financial crisis for my family,” Silvani said.

Silvani shared her story to a House committee Tuesday as lawmakers discussed the need for paid leave and the best way to provide it to workers.

House and Senate leaders agreed on a proposal to give 12 full weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers but it doesn’t cover the private sector.

"This agreement is not perfect,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) said.

"There's still more work to do,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia) said.

But some lawmakers pointed to potential set-backs under a federal law.

“We must carefully consider the potential tradeoffs from legislating a federal mandate for paid family leave like the potential for lower pay or reduction in other employer based benefits,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said.

"Voluntary employer provided policies work better because they can balance workers and employers' needs at minimal costs and consequences,” Rachel Greszler with the Heritage Foundation testified.

For Silvani, her son is now a happy and healthy second-grader.

Her goal is to fight for protection and coverage to other families in need of paid leave.

"We wouldn't have had to worry about our jobs at the same time we worried about our child's life. But we did,” Silvani said.

The Family and Medical Leave Act currently gives unpaid leave to workers but it only applies to around 60 percent of U.S. workers.

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