When I was 12, my parents purchased a small general store in Roxbury, and we moved to Maine. Shortly after our move my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

Because my father was self-employed, he was unable to access paid leave and he found himself undergoing a series of intense medical procedures and appointments while running a store alongside my mom.

Since then, I’ve talked with friends and others around the state, and I’ve learned that my family’s story is not unique. I’ll be graduating from Mountain Valley High School in Rumford in a month, and it’s shocked me to learn that so many of my friends have also needed extended time off to care for themselves or their family members.

Thousands of families in Maine suffer because our state doesn’t have a comprehensive paid family and medical leave system. All people deserve to be able to have paid time off when we need it, whether that’s because of welcoming a new baby, or because they need cancer treatment.

There will be a bill in the state Legislature soon that will address the issue of access to paid family and medical leave. I hope my neighbors support this bill and make it so families like mine don’t have to struggle.

Carlyssa Baker, Mexico

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