Rochester, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter today announced federal legislation that would create paid family and medical leave. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, ensuring that American workers would no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a family member.
“When a young parent needs time to care for a newborn child – it should never come down to an outdated policy that lets her boss decide how long it will take – and decide the fate of her career and her future along with it. When any one of us – man or woman – needs time to care for a dying parent – we should not have to sacrifice our job and risk our future to do the right thing for our family. Choosing between your loved ones and your career and your future is a choice no one should have to make,” said Senator Gillibrand.
“I’ve been fighting for paid family and medical leave my entire career because no one should have to sacrifice their wages and economic security to care for a newborn or because of a medical emergency in the family,” said Rep. Slaughter, who is co-sponsoring the legislation in the House. “I thank Senator Gillibrand for introducing the FAMILY Act in the Senate and Mayor Warren for her work on this issue in Rochester, and I look forward to doing my part to pass this bill into law.”
“We know that a large portion of Rochester’s citizens live paycheck-to-paycheck with little or no savings,” said Mayor Warren. “For them, taking an extended unpaid leave to deal with a family health emergency could be financially devastating. In essence, they’re left with a choice of financial ruin, or abandoning a sick loved one during their time of need. Neither option is acceptable. This is an unfair dilemma to place our citizens in. The FAMILY Act will provide partial wage replacement, thus alleviating the most common reason workers give for not taking FMLA leave when they need it.”
Current Family and Medical Leave law provides unpaid, job-protected leave for serious health related events for only about half of the workforce. The other half don’t qualify for this unpaid leave, and many more simply cannot afford to take it because it is unpaid. In fact, only 12 percent of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent of workers have access to personal medical leave through employer-provided temporary disability insurance.
The FAMILY Act would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits. This trust would be funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each, creating a self-sufficient program that would not add to the federal budget. The expected cost to the average worker would be similar to the expense of a cup of coffee a week. Benefit levels, modeled on existing successful state programs in New Jersey and California, would equal 66 percent of an individual’s typical monthly wages up to a capped monthly amount that would be indexed for inflation. The proposal makes leave available to every individual regardless of the size of their current employer and regardless of whether such individual is currently employed by an employer, self-employed or currently unemployed, as long as the person has sufficient earnings and work history.