Far Too Many Americans Left Vulnerable With Paid Leave Legislation Enacted in Just 11 States and DC;
Nearly Every Single Worker Will Need Paid Leave At Some Point, Whether They Are Dealing With Another Pandemic Or A Personal Emergency
Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) are introducing an updated version of their signature legislation to create a permanent, national paid family and medical leave program, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. 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. Paid medical and family leave is especially helpful for new parents and older Americans, who are more likely to have health issues or caregiving obligations for older relatives. Notable improvements in this year’s introduction of the bill include expanding benefit eligibility to truly cover all workers, bringing the definition of “family” into the 21st century, a progressive wage replacement rate for benefits, no unpaid waiting period to receive benefits, and extending leave benefits to cover non-medical needs in relation to sexual or domestic violence.
“Without universal paid leave, millions of Americans must choose between their livelihood and the health and well-being of themselves and their families. After ten years fighting for paid leave, we are still the only industrialized nation without this essential program,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to join my partner, Representative DeLauro, to introduce an improved version of the FAMILY Act with marked changes that will help serve all workers and all loved ones for major life events. Now is the time to deliver on paid leave for the future of our families, our middle class, and our country.”
“Thirty years ago, we broke ground by enshrining the Family and Medical Leave Act into law, providing unpaid family and medical leave for working Americans,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “Let’s break ground again by making it paid. Since 2013, I have been proud to be joined by Senator Gillibrand in introducing the FAMILY Act, which would establish the nation’s first universal, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program. This year, the fight continues, as we reintroduce a strengthened FAMILY Act to meet families where they are now and ensure no one has to make the impossible choice between their job and the health of themselves or their loved ones.”
Gillibrand and DeLauro’s FAMILY Act delivers a key solution to the country’s public health and economic challenges and is modeled on successful state programs. This year’s introduction of the FAMILY Act includes notable changes that strengthen paid leave protections for all workers. Most notably, the new bill would:
- Bring the definition of “family” into the 21st century: The new definition of “family” ensures a broader range of caregiving relationships are covered, including a spouse, registered domestic partner/civil union partner, spouse or domestic partner’s parent (parent-in-law), children of any age, child’s spouse (child-in-law), parent, parent’s spouse (step-parent), sibling, sibling’s spouse (sibling-in-law), grandparent, grandparent’s spouse (step-grandparent), grandchild, grandchild’s spouse (grandchild-in-law), or any other individual who is related by blood or affinity and whose association with the individual involved is equivalent of a family relationship.
Previously, “family” for caregiving eligibility was defined as: spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child under 18 or age 18 or older if incapable of self-care because of a physical or mental disability.
- Expand eligibility to cover all workers who have worked in the past two years: The new bill expands benefit eligibility to protect all workers regardless of whether or not they are subject to Social Security taxes. Previously, only workers subject to Social Security taxes would have been eligible for paid leave benefits—excluding certain state and local government employees who are exempted from those taxes. The bill now extends eligibility to any worker who has earned at least $2,000 in income in the prior two years.
- Improve program financing: Previously, the bill applied a 0.4% payroll tax, shared evenly between employers and employees, to income subject to the Social Security taxable wage base, which is currently capped at $160,200. To eliminate the cap on taxable wages and expand eligibility, the new bill instead applies the same payroll tax to the Medicare HI taxable wage base.
- Include a progressive wage replacement rate for benefits: The progressive wage replacement rate still has a $4,000 cap per month and would help working-class and low-wage workers access resources to match their level of need. The progressive wage replacement provides:
- 85% on the first $1,257 of monthly wages
- 69% of monthly wages from $1,258-$3,500
- 50% of monthly wages from $3,501-$6,200
Previously, the rate was approximately 67% of monthly wages, up to $4,000 per month.
- Provide safe leave for sexual and domestic violence: The new bill would ensure workers have the ability to take safe leave to address non-medical needs in relation to sexual or domestic violence. These benefits extend assisting family in these activities, including people like parents, siblings, or adult children of any age.
- Remove the unpaid waiting period for benefits: Benefits were not previously available for the first 5 caregiving days.
- Acknowledge legacy states: States with paid leave laws in place can qualify for special status if they demonstrate that their program is at least as generous as the federal program. If a state qualifies for special status, workers will receive benefits through their state program. If a state qualifies for special status and enters into a data-sharing agreement with the federal government, the state program will be reimbursed for the cost of providing benefits guaranteed by federal law.
For a section-by-section comparison chart of the FAMILY Act changes, please click here.
For a one-pager on the FAMILY Act changes, please click here.
For bill text, please click here.
This legislation is cosponsored by Senators Schumer (D-NY), Bennet (D-CO), Booker (D-NJ), Blumenthal (D-CT), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Fetterman (D-PA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Klobuchar (D-MN), Luján (D-NM), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murray (D-WA), Padilla (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), Welch (D-VT), and Whitehouse (D-RI).
This legislation has been endorsed by nearly 70 national organizations, including: American Muslim Health Professionals, Asset Building Strategies, Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, Caring Across Generations, Center For Economic And Policy Research, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Child Welfare League of America, Coalition on Human Needs, Coalition of Labor Union Women AFL-CIO, COVID Survivors for Change, Equal Rights Advocates, Family Values @ Work, First Focus Campaign for Children, Futures Without Violence, The Gerontological Society of America, Health Care Voices, Human Rights Campaign, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Ipas, Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, Lactation Education Resources, Legal Aid at Work, MomsRising, National Association of Social Workers, National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), National Council of Jewish Women, National Education Association, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Respite Coalition, National Women’s Law Center, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Paid Leave for All, PAVE, Prosperity Now, Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK), ROC United, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227, Women’s Law Project, Young Invincibles, YWCA USA, ZERO TO THREE, BreastfeedLA, Clayton Early Learning, Florida Alliance for Community Solutions, Inc., AIDS Foundation Chicago, YWCA Champaign County, AAUW Indiana, AAUW Indianapolis, AAUW Valparaiso, Healthier Moms and Babies, Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute, MCCOY (Marion County Commission on Youth, Inc.), Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition, Family Voices NJ, New Jersey Citizen Action, NJ Time to Care Coalition, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, Hunger Free Vermont, Voices for Vermont’s Children, Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition, Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington.