LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A Kentucky state lawmaker is putting her full-time career on hold to take care of her family during the pandemic. She has concerns, though, that a nation of mothers doing the same thing will find it harder to return to the workforce when it’s over.
As virtual learning becomes the new norm and with limited childcare options, it’s what worked best for State Rep. Josie Raymond, (D) Louisville, and her family.
Raymond is not afraid of rolling up her sleeves. On Facebook, she posted her first job was at Slugger Field wiping the bleachers free of the droppings birds left behind. The lawmaker also appeared on KET this year delivering an impassioned speech, while simultaneously cradling her newborn baby on the House floor.
Now, in the middle of a pandemic, life has changed.
“I am one of the millions of mothers across the country who has had to leave the workforce essentially,” Raymond said. “I left my full-time job. Of course, I’m still representing my constituents in Frankfort, but I left my full-time job at UofL in the spring to care for my three kids.”
Raymond’s days are now structured a little differently. Her husband is working, and she’s overseeing Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) for her first grader and kindergartener. At the same time, she’s taking care of her baby.
“In Jefferson County, there’s no return in sight for public school, unfortunately,” she said. “There’s absolutely no end in sight for this second pandemic of mothers having to leave the workforce because when I’m home with my children, I can’t even start looking for a full-time job because I have no time table.”
Raymond said the workforce participation rate in Kentucky has been in decline for 20 years. She now worries mothers who want to work may find it hard to transition back to the workforce after the COVID-19 outbreak wanes. She added that if they do, the pay gap may have widened.
“We’ve missed out on acquiring skills, building our networks, building that social capital, earning promotions and raises,” Raymond said.
In Frankfort, during the new legislative session in January, she said a short-term solution is providing temporary financial assistance to families. Long term, Raymond said Kentucky needs to focus on objectives like paid leave, childcare, and pre-K for all.
“It’s not a personal failing if someone is not in the workforce,” she said. “They’re facing obstacles and structural barriers to work. So, I hope we can start to tackle those.”
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce recently wrote an op-ed on the topic stating last month, four times as many women left the workforce as men across the country.
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