By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on February 12 re-introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), H.R. 1185, to create a universal, gender-neutral, national paid family and medical leave program. Proponents of the legislation observed that the United States is the only industrialized country that does not guarantee its workers some form of paid leave. According to recent studies, the lack of access to paid family and medical leave costs nearly $21 billion that otherwise could be spent on housing, child care, food, education, or other everyday items.
The FAMILY Act would ensure that workers can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a pregnancy, the birth or adoption of a child, recovery from a serious illness, or to care for a seriously ill family member. Specifically, the FAMILY Act would create what sponsors called a “self-sustaining family insurance program for all workers,” regardless of the size of their employer. The fund would provide up to 66 percent wage-replacement for up to 12 weeks in the event of a serious personal or family medical emergency.
Sponsors of the proposal underscored that the FAMILY Act would:
- Provide up to 12 weeks of partial wages to working people who need to take time away from their jobs to address a serious personal or family health issue, to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, or for circumstances arising from a loved one’s military deployment or serious injury;
- Be self-funded through payroll contributions from employers and employees of just two-tenths of 1 percent each (two cents per $10 in wages), or about $4 a week total, split between employers and employees;
- Guarantee portable coverage so that workers who have multiple jobs, change jobs, or are self-employed would be provided the same security as traditional employees; and
- Provide 66 percent wage replacement, capped at $4,000 a month.
“We need the FAMILY Act to help deal with the biggest economic challenge of our time—that too many Americans are working in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on,” said DeLauro in a statement. "Losing several weeks’ worth of wages in order to care for an ill loved one or the birth of a child—events which many of us would need to take time off for—is simply not an option. In fact, it would push many families over the financial edge. That is why we need to act now; the time for national paid family and medical leave is long overdue. Our new Democratic majority in the House is poised to take action and keep fighting until no American worker has to choose between sacrificing a paycheck and caring for their family during the toughest times."
In the last Congress, the FAMILY Act was introduced in February 2017 (H.R. 947; S. 337), but failed to advance beyond committee assignment. The FAMILY Act has 164 original cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 34 in the Senate. It has also been endorsed by more than 630 organizations.
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