On the 28th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, their signature legislation to create a permanent, national paid family and medical leave program.
The FAMILY Act would ensure that every worker, no matter the size of their employer or if they are self-employed or part-time, has access to paid leave for every serious medical event, every time it’s needed. The emergency paid leave provision that partially expired at the end of last year helped to prevent covered workers from having to choose between their paycheck or their health when they needed to stay home, and helped slow the spread of COVID-19 by roughly 15,000 cases per day. However, not only is this provision too narrow, the need for a national paid leave program extends far beyond the pandemic — it is a critical tool for long term economic recovery. Gillibrand and DeLauro’s FAMILY Act is modeled on successful state programs and would create a permanent paid family and medical leave program for all workers that provides up to 66% of wage replacement for 12 weeks, anytime they need it.
“The pandemic has placed an overwhelming burden on women in the workforce, which has decimated many middle class families throughout the country. And this economic harm has hit black and brown families, especially women, disproportionately hard. Decades of economic progress has been decimated over the last year because these women have been forced to make the impossible decision between caring for their families or earning a paycheck,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m proud to work with Congresswoman DeLauro to introduce the FAMILY Act to establish a permanent, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program so that all workers are protected through the remainder of this crisis and beyond.”
“For more than a year, we have simultaneously been struggling to combat a public health emergency and an economic one,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “Women and communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by this crisis, often forced to make the impossible decision between caring for themselves or their families and earning a paycheck. Long before this crisis there has been desperate need for paid family and medical leave. This problem, made worse by the pandemic, must be addressed in a permanent way. We must bring paid family and medical leave to every worker in American through the FAMILY Act now. Since 2013, I have been proud to fight for the FAMILY Act alongside Senator Gillibrand. I know that together we will get this done.”
“Paid leave for all was our mission before the pandemic, and now it is absolutely our mandate. It is a common-sense, widely supported, cost-effective policy that we needed years ago, and we must implement it now. We are grateful to our champions and commit to fighting alongside them until this law is passed, because paid leave is fundamental to our public health, our families’ well-being, and our economic recovery and stability,” said Dawn Huckelbridge, Director of Paid Leave for All.
“The pandemic shined a bright spotlight on the history of racism and sexism that is deeply embedded in our society – including how the lack of paid family and medical leave forces people to choose between caring for themselves or a loved one and earning a paycheck,” said Debra Ness, President, and Erika Moritsugu, Vice President for Economic Justice, of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The FAMILY Act is a comprehensive and inclusive approach to providing all workers access to paid family and medical leave, and will go a long way towards helping the nearly 80 percent of workers who do not have access to this critical benefit through their employer. We commend Congresswoman DeLauro and Senator Gillibrand for reintroducing this bill at such a critical moment in the fight for paid leave.”
“It is a national disgrace that our federal government does not guarantee paid family and medical leave for the American people. The COVID-19 Pandemic has revealed that far too many essential and low-wage workers are faced with choosing between their safety and family obligations vs. putting food on the table. It is no coincidence that these workers are disproportionately black & other people of color and women. The lack of paid family leave is a crisis in the United States and is a racial injustice issue, that must be addressed and recognized as a life or death issue. Now is the time for Congress to immediately pass the FAMILY Act to save lives and begin rebuilding an economy that works for all Americans,” said Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convenor, Black Women’s Roundtable.
“I’ve had surgery twice for lung cancer,” said Permelia Toney-Boss, member of the Voices of Workers. “I needed care from my adult daughter, but the first time she had no paid leave and could take only a day here and there. The second time, she was able to use New Jersey’s paid leave law. Having someone who really knows you take care of you makes a big difference. I know I healed faster because she was there. People who are dealing with COVID-19 need the same support. We need paid leave for all that allows us to heal and care for loved ones–no matter where we live, where we work, or who we love.”
Didier Trinh, Government Affairs Director, Main Street Alliance: “This year especially has shown that there is a clear and direct link between public health, small business viability, and a strong economy. Business owners are doing everything they can to stay afloat while also protecting the health and safety of their employees and customers during these times. Congress must now do their part to ensure equal access to paid leave becomes a foundation in our economy. Even before the pandemic, the lack of a paid leave program disadvantaged small businesses relative to big business and harmed small business employees. Establishing a level playing field has become more urgent than ever, backed by the fact that national paid leave has the support of over 70 percent of small business owners.”
“NARAL applauds Senator Gillibrand and Representative DeLauro for their introduction of the FAMILY Act. This pioneering legislation would go a long way toward ensuring that no American has to choose between jeopardizing their livelihood and caring for themselves and their family,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue. “As our country faces an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, it is more urgent than ever that Congress take action to ensure that working families have the resources—including paid leave—that they need to provide for and care for their loved ones.”
Sade Moonsammy, Interim Director, Family Values @ Work: “Our network is powered by people who became activists because they had no paid leave. They know what it means to go back to work three weeks after giving birth or within hours or days of a partner’s delivery. They know the extraordinary cost of having to start from scratch because of lost income while caring for a loved one with a disability. Long before the pandemic, they knew what it was like to experience a loved one dying alone. These same activists have helped win paid leave now in nine states and D.C and know what a difference it makes. They want a national program that will ensure everyone can heal and be there for family, knowing they’ll have enough income and a job to return to regardless of where they live, what kind of work they do, or who they love. On this 28th anniversary of FMLA, they know the bill that passes must be effective and include all of us.”
Ruth Martin, Vice President and Chief Workplace Justice Officer, MomsRising: “Week after week in the pandemic, jobs reports show that Black women and Latinas are losing their jobs and moms are being forced to leave the labor force in the face of virtual schooling, dwindling child care options, and lack of paid sick days and paid family leave. The number of women in the workforce is plunging and even more women and women of color are working part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs. Our economy will never thrive if women are not fully represented in the workforce and we cannot be fully represented without a strong paid leave program. Congress must pass the FAMILY (Family and Medical Insurance Leave) Act this year, so working people will be able to care for their families and maintain their health without risking their jobs or economic security. America’s moms are counting on Congress to pass it, and President Biden to sign it into law, this year.”
“Nearly a year into a devastating pandemic and recession, we need the FAMILY Act more than ever,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “92 percent of workers who earn low wages—who are disproportionately Black and Brown—have no access to paid family leave. When a baby is born or illness strikes, families are forced to make impossible choices between their economic security and the needs of their loved ones.”
“Americans should not be forced to decide between taking care of their families and economic security,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “As COVID cases surge, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act is crucial legislation that would ensure that millions of Americans — including LGBTQ families — have access to paid family and medical leave to care for themselves and their family members. We thank Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Rosa DeLauro for their continued leadership on behalf of all American families and urge Congress to remove an unfair burden on working families and swiftly pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act.”
Sherry Leiwant, Co-President & Co-Founder, A Better Balance: “We applaud Senator Gillibrand and Representative DeLauro for recognizing the urgent need for a permanent, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program with the reintroduction of the FAMILY Act. A Better Balance hears every day from workers—disproportionately women and people of color—who have for too long been forced to sacrifice their economic security when welcoming a new child, caring for a seriously ill loved one, or attending to their own medical needs. The pandemic has sharply exacerbated these deep-seated inequities and our nation’s resulting care crisis—and only through bold, permanent policy solutions like nationwide paid leave can we take steps toward recovery and build a more just economy for working families.”
Throughout the pandemic, women have been disproportionately affected by job losses. December job data revealed that the economy suffered a net loss of 140,000 jobs — and each of those jobs lost belonged to a woman. In particular, Black women and Latinas lost their jobs, while White women made significant gains. According to a report from the National Women’s Law Center, more than 2 million women have left the U.S. workforce since the pandemic began, with many forced to leave due to family considerations or because they work in some of the hardest hit sectors of our economy. These women, and particularly women of color, are also more likely to be employed in roles that lack paid sick leave and the ability to work from home. Without a permanent paid leave solution, more women are at risk of losing their livelihoods, more workers are at risk of getting sick when they can’t stay home, and our economic recovery is at risk of being stalled.
While the FFCRA required some employers to provide workers with two weeks of coronavirus-related sick leave at full pay, and up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave to care for family members at two-thirds pay, it is estimated that up to three-quarters of all workers were excluded from receiving these benefits. The most recent relief package failed to extend the requirement that certain employers must provide this leave. In January, Gillibrand and DeLauro called on the incoming Biden administration to extend certain paid leave provisions in any further relief packages.
Gillibrand and DeLauro’s FAMILY Act delivers a key solution to the country’s public health and economic challenges. They are fighting to include it in the next coronavirus relief package.
This legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Tina Smith (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).
Gillibrand and DeLauro have been leaders in the fight to extend paid leave to Federal employees, enact a federal paid leave program during the COVID-19 crisis, and establish a national paid family and medical leave program. In March, Gillibrand and DeLauro, alongside Senator Patty Murray, successfully secured the national emergency paid leave program in the FFCRA. Gillibrand, Murray, DeLauro and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley later introduced the PAID Leave Act and repeatedly pushed the Trump administration and Congressional leadership to support it in the coronavirus relief package.
This legislation has been endorsed by 89 national organizations including Paid Leave for All, National Partnership for Women and Families, PL+US, NAACP, Black Woman’s Roundtable, SEIU, CWU, National Woman’s Law Center, National Hispanic Council, Moms Rising, FAMILY Values @ Work, CLASP, HRC, American Sustainable Business Council, Main Street Alliance, Small Business Majority.