D.C. small business owner: Pass the Universal Paid Leave Act

When I opened my small business, it was the culmination of my lifetime aspiration. But, as with any small business owner, this freedom came with huge sacrifices. As a start-up neighborhood dog grooming business in Ward 4, I could not afford to offer my employees--or myself--some of the workplace benefits that other employees often enjoy, such as retirement options, vacation time and paid family and medical leave. 

Just over a year ago, my husband and I received the news that he had stage-4 cancer. We have endured a lengthy recovery process that is still ongoing today. How would I maintain my business while taking care of my family? As with any business, some hard decisions had to be made. At one point, I went from six employees to one.

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I don't regret any of the decisions I've made and will make them time and time again if necessary. But, it was heartbreaking to see my business, which I had invested so much in, suffer.

It is for this reason that I so strongly support D.C’s Universal Paid Leave Act. This bill would establish an insurance pool available to anyone who works in D.C.--employees, small business owners, part-time workers, and contractors alike.

If this program were in place last year, I would have had the peace of mind to know I could still provide for my family and my employees, even when I couldn’t leave my husband’s side to make it into my shop.

Under the Universal Paid Leave Act, I’ll pay .62% of my payroll costs into an insurance pool designated for funding the program. Some critics have complained that this investment is too costly and would burden small businesses. But, compared with the alternative of having no plans in place or paying leave out of pocket, this is a bargain! For a small business owner with a roughly $200,000 payroll, we’d pay about $1,250 per year. That's just $312 per quarter or $178 annually per employee, myself included. I would gladly spend such a reasonable, manageable, and predictable amount that provides coverage for new parents and for unpredictable illnesses or injuries suffered by myself, my employees, or our families.

Just like health or unemployment insurance, this small contribution is an investment in the social, economic, and physical well-being of our workforce and our families. And it's an investment that directly helps me, and my colleagues across the District, attract and retain talented employees.

If this bill is passed as written, without weakening amendments, it will provide a shining example of how D.C. government can work in the best interest of small business owners and our employees. The government can, and should, play a significant role in bettering the lives of D.C. residents and preventing some of the wide-ranging and devastating financial impacts of injuries and illnesses, like my husband’s unexpected diagnosis.

Owning a small business and creating jobs for members of my community is both the realization of my dreams and a pathway to the middle class for myself and the employees I’ve brought on. It did not come without significant bumps in the road, but that road can be made smoother by the D.C. Council when they vote to approve the Universal Paid Leave Act without amendments and by Mayor Bowser when she signs the bill into law.

Ethel Taylor is the owner of Doggie Washerette in Washington, D.C. She is a member of the Main Street Alliance.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.