Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the reintroduction of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. The Democrats say the legislation would create a universal, gender-neutral paid family and medical leave program.
DeLauro, from Connecticut’s Third House district, and Gillibrand were joined on a conference call by business leaders, advocates and reporters as they talked up the idea of a gender-neutral paid family and medical leave program. The pair originally introduced their bill in 2013.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), passed some 24 years ago, provides workers with access to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. DeLauro, cancer-free after 30 years, points out that only 40 percent of American workers have access to paid personal medical leave, and only 14 percent have access to paid family leave. "I was fortunate, but most working Americans are not. At some point in our working lives nearly all of us need time off to deal with a serious illness or care for a newborn child."
DeLauro notes that although the Trump administration has expressed interest in paid maternity leave, she warns it would take the money from the already-strapped unemployment system. "What the FAMILY Act would do, is to set up a national insurance program to provide participating workers with up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year, for birth or adoption of a new child, recovery from a serious illness or caring for a seriously ill family member."
The paid leave program envisioned by DeLauro would apply to all workers, men and women. The average worker would pay $1.50 per week. Gillibrand says the vast majority of working families in America don't have access to any form of paid leave. A similar measure is pending in the Connecticut legislature. "We are the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't guarantee some form of paid leave. This means that when there's a medical emergency in a family, or a new baby's born or an elderly parent get sick, these families are stuck with an awful choice that no American family should have to make," said Gillibrand.
Gillibrand believes that part of the solution to solving the problems affecting the middle class is paid leave. "Every day that goes by without a national paid leave program, workers will continue to lose income, will continue to lose their jobs, and businesses will continue to lose employees."
Debra Ness, Executive Director of the National Partnership for Women & Families, says it is imperative paid leave be available for American workers. "We need it because of the changing demographics. We need it because it will make our economy stronger. And there are four states now that have paid Family Medical Leave programs, and more on the horizon."
Gillibrand and DeLauro say over 70 percent of Americans want a national paid leave plan. They're looking for supporters from the other side of the aisle, and believe the White House is open to taking a long, hard look at their bill.