We've said it before (and we probably won't stop saying it until we get it): America needs to prioritize paid parental and family leave.
The good news is we're definitely not the only ones saying it. Politicians—both Republicans and Democrats—want to see the United States shed its reputation as the only member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) without paid leave.
How that will happen remains to be seen, but there are a few plans floating around, and the one that's been talked about the most in recent days is the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, a.k.a the Family Act.
Presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with Connecticut Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D) reintroduced the Family Act last month, and this week the U.S. House of Representatives held its first hearing on the act.
It's basically a plan for paid leave insurance (kind of like what Canada has or what Washington state is implementing). Employers and employees (through small payroll deductions) would pay in, and then when a worker has a baby or needs to take time off to care for a family member they'd be able to collect 66% of their wages for 12 weeks.
But even if the Family Act gets through the House, it might have a tough time getting through Congress. Sen. Gillibrand's been bringing this up in every congressional session since 2013, and it's 2019 and we don't have paid leave.
But it's a good time to keep pushing. The general election is coming, and politicians on both sides of the aisle know that the lack of paid leave is a huge pain point for the nation's voters.
In his February State of the Union address, President Trump suggested he wants to make sure "every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child," and members of his party have their own ideas about how to make it happen.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been working on a plan—the Economic Security for New Parents Act—with Ann Wagner, the U.S. Representative for Missouri's 2nd congressional district, which aims to pay parental leave benefits through Social Security. Workers would basically take from their future Social Security benefits (that they would normally use down the road in retirement) to pay for parental leave for six weeks.
Utah's Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, along with Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa have also been working on similar legislation tied to Social Security. The idea is quite different from the Family Act, but the existence of both proves that we're moving in the right direction.
A recent poll by the Cato Institute found 88% of Democrats, and 60% of Republicans support paid family leave, (with 72% of Republican women supporting it, versus half of republican men).
Both side of the aisle are ready for paid leave. Let's make it happen.
You might also like:
- New Jersey expands paid family leave
- Washington state just rolled out an awesome paid leave plan
- More mothers breastfeeding in states with paid leave laws, says study
he Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, known as the Family Act,
The Child Care for Working Families Act
3. This isn't just about making sure kids get care, but also they get good teachers
It is no secret that early childcare educators and daycare workers are super underpaid (we're often talking like $10 an hour) compared to those teaching older kids, and so the turnover rate in the industry is unfortunately high.
And who can blame staff for seeking opportunities in other fields when their pay is so low that 4 in 10 American childcare workers rely on public assistance at some point while they are working?
The childcare workers taking care of our families deserve to be paid enough to take care of their own families, and the act would see training and pay increases for these valuable workers, which means less turnover and a better quality of care for our kids.
4. Where would the money come from
The bill itself appropriates $20 billion in fiscal 2020, $30 billion in fiscal 2021, and $40 billion in fiscal 2022, and whatever is needed after that for child care subsidy expansions.
IN EVERY CONGRESS since 2013, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced a bill that would give workers 12 weeks of partially-paid leave to care for a new baby or a sick relative. Every time, the bill has gone nowhere. This is despite the fact that America is almost the only developed country in the world not to guarantee paid leave to new mothers (many countries also offer it to fathers) and most Americans—Republicans as well as Democrats—would like that to change.
The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, known as the Family Act, is unlikely to get very far in the 116th Congress either. The paid leave it proposes would be funded by a small payroll tax paid by employers and employees; Republican lawmakers are unlikely to vote for anything that raises taxes or forces employers to provide benefits.