From the desk of Kathryn Garven
WHAT IS THE FAMILY ACT?
The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act [S. 337/H.R. 947] would address America’s paid family and medical leave crisis and benefit working people, their families, businesses, and our nation’s economy. The bill, sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), was introduced into Congress on February 7, 2017 and is in the first stage of the legislative process. Senator Gillibrand’s bill promises up to 12 weeks of paid time off through a shared fund that makes paid leave affordable for employers of all sizes and for workers and their families. The 12 weeks would be partial income to take time for their own serious health conditions, including pregnancy and childbirth recovery; the serious health condition of a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner; the birth or adoption of a child; and/or for particular military caregiving and leave purposes.
WHY IS THE FAMILY ACT IMPORTANT?
The United States is currently the only industrialized nation without a national paid leave program, and only 14% of American workers have access to paid family leave through their employer. Without a national paid family leave program, the U.S. economy loses almost $21 billion a year, women lose $324,000 in wages and retirement benefits over a lifetime, and men loe $284,000. Studies show that businesses incur an additional 20% cost to recruit and retain new workers replacing others who left because they did not have paid leave.
IS PAID LEAVE AFFORDABLE?
The FAMILY Act is funded responsibly by small employee and employer payroll contributions of two-tenths of 1% each (two cents per $10 in wages), or less than $1.50 per week for a typical worker. The Act creates a self-sustaining family insurance program for all workers -- young and elderly, single and married, men and women - regardless of the size of their employer. It is modeled after successful state programs, and costs only as much as a cup of coffee per week. The fund would provide up to 66% of wage-replacement for 12 weeks in the event of a serious personal or family medical emergency.
78% of voters say they would favor -- including 64% who “strongly favor” -- establishing a national law that provides 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave
93% of Democrats support paid family and medical leave
77% of Independents support paid family and medical leave
66% of Republicans support paid family and medical leave
64% of voters in 15 “battleground” states say they are willing to contribute to a paid leave fund, and both lower- and higher-wage workers are equally willing to contribute
Among paid leave supporters, nearly nine in 10 (86%) are willing to contribute
72% of paid leave supporters are willing to contribute much more than the FAMILY Act would require
WHY SHOULD THE FAMILY ACT BECOME A NATIONAL LAW?
“Without a national paid leave program, too many Americans must choose between their family responsibilities and their paychecks. This needs to change. That’s why I’m cosponsoring Senator Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act. This bill is good for families, good for businesses, and good for our economy.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
The FAMILY Act brings families together and makes bonds stronger within families, communities, and between employers and employees. So far only a few states have enacted their own family leave laws, including California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. Only California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island currently offer paid family and medical leave and only five states currently have paid sick leave. Only 12% of our workforce has access to paid family leave. No one should have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a loved one. It is important that everyone has access to paid leave so we can better ourselves and our families without fear of losing income. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said, “The FAMILY Act is an important step in building an economy that works for everyone.”
Congress is currently looking at the option of mirroring California’s paid family leave. In the state of California, payroll deductions fund a state-run insurance pool that allows employees to take off up to six weeks at partial income. The public programs provide pay for workers whose employers don’t offer the benefit -- and the local government wants to see the local efforts spread.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP PASS THE FAMILY ACT?
Call, write a letter, email, set up a meeting, or use social media to get in touch with members of Congress that represent you and tell them why the FAMILY Act matters. Define your objective, get to know the issue thoroughly, and communicate with your legislators from several sources. Give thorough attention to your position, the position of your opponent, the status of any pending legislation relating to the issue, and your elected official’s current position. One simple phone call could make the critical difference.
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