The League joined more than 340 organizations representing a range of demographic groups from more than 40 states in sending a letter to Congress urging members to support an inclusive paid family and medical leave policy and to reject alternatives that leave people behind. Specifically, the groups want to make clear that the parental-leave-only plan included in the administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal would do more harm than good and should not be considered a legitimate paid leave plan. Signatories include advocacy groups, direct service organizations and private sector businesses.
June 28, 2017
Dear Members of Congress:
On behalf of the more than 340 undersigned organizations and the tens of millions of working families we represent, we urge you to stand with working families across the nation by committing to support a strong, responsible national paid family and medical leave policy and reject harmful alternatives.
The United States needs a national paid family and medical leave plan to provide essential support and create opportunity for all working people and families, to help ensure that people can take the time they need to address serious health issues, to promote a more level playing field for businesses of all sizes and to strengthen our national economy.
Policy details matter tremendously. Disparities in access to leave, changing demographics and the realities working families face today require that any meaningful national plan be comprehensive and inclusive. Responsible governance requires that any plan be affordable, cost-effective and sustainably funded with new revenue, not with cuts to existing programs. Any plan that fails to meet these tests – and especially one that does so in the context of a budget proposal that would do irreparable damage to the health, nutrition, income stability and well-being of millions of people across the country – is unacceptable. Paid leave in name only will serve no one.
The paid parental leave proposal included in the Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget is unacceptable, both on its face and in the context of a devastatingly draconian budget. The Trump budget proposes to require states to provide six weeks of paid leave to parents caring for newborn or newly adopted children. The proposal is inadequate and unworkable for the following reasons:
It excludes more than 75 percent of people in this country who take family or medical leave not to care for new babies or newly adopted children, but to care for family members with serious illnesses, injuries or disabilities or for their own serious health issue.1
- It would put severe stress on an already fragile unemployment insurance (UI) program, threaten to impose further cuts in existing UI benefits or higher taxes on employers to make UI funds more solvent, and could seriously undermine access to state UI benefits when the next recession hits.
- It would likely incorporate unacceptably restrictive UI eligibility rules and unacceptably low UI benefit levels, which would make leave inaccessible or unaffordable for many workers who need time to care, rather than setting inclusive and meaningful national baselines.
- It provides just six weeks of leave, rather than the 12-week minimum that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) established for unpaid leave more than 24 years ago; a new national program should not diminish an existing national standard.
Establishing a real national paid family and medical leave standard is crucial. Today, just 14 percent of the workforce in the United States has access to paid family leave through an employer, and less than 40 percent has access to personal medical leave through an employer’s temporary disability insurance program.2 Access rates for workers in lower-wage jobs are much lower, and recent private sector advances are disproportionately concentrated in higher-skill industries and among higher-paid employees. The benefits of paid family and medical leave for workforce attachment, economic stability and individual, family, and public health are well-documented.
It is well past time for the United States to adopt a nationwide paid family and medical leave standard, and not just any plan will do. A strong, responsible paid leave policy must:
- Apply to everyone on a nationwide basis, no matter where people live, where they work or what job they hold.
- Include all of the well-established reasons people need paid leave – to care for new children or seriously ill or injured family members including aging loved ones, to address their own serious health condition, or to address military care needs.
- Offer substantial benefits so that lower- and middle-wage workers can afford to take the paid family and medical leave available to them.
- Provide a reasonable duration of leave that matches or exceeds the 12-week precedent established by the FMLA, the nation’s unpaid leave law.
- Protect workers from adverse employment consequences for using paid leave.
- Be sustainably and responsibly funded, without making unacceptable and harmful cuts or adding barriers to access to other essential programs, including but not limited to Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), UI or other programs that serve millions of people across the country.
Successful state programs have shown what works. Paid family and medical leave insurance programs have existed in California since 2004, New Jersey since 2009 and Rhode Island since 2014. Strong new programs will take effect in New York in 2018 and in the District of Columbia in 2020. Analyses of California’s law show that both employers and employees benefit from the program.3 In New Jersey, the program costs have been lower than expected and public attitudes toward the program are favorable.4 Early research on Rhode Island’s program found positive effects for new parents, and a majority of small- and medium-sized employers were in favor of the program one year after it took effect.5 California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have all had financially sound programs and are all exploring ways to make them more accessible.
National paid family and medical leave insurance has broad support from voters across party lines. Supermajorities of voters across party lines support a comprehensive, 12-week national paid family and medical leave law, including 66 percent of Republicans, 77 percent of independents, and 93 percent of Democrats. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of voters say they would “strongly favor” such a law.6
Seven in 10 small business owners support national paid family and medical leave insurance. A national, scientific survey found that 70 percent of small business owners and operators support legislation to establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program funded by modest contributions from both employees and employers.7 Small business owners report that this paid leave policy would help level the playing field with large corporations, improve worker retention, productivity, and morale, and protect small business owners’ economic security in the event of an accident or medical emergency.8 Americans want and need paid leave for elder care, self-care and family members with serious health conditions. The majority of parents, adult children, and spouses who provide care for ill family members or children with disabilities also having paying jobs; half of those who do have paying jobs are working full time in addition to their caregiving responsibilities.9 The majority of military caregivers – and more than three-quarters of caregivers for post-9/11 wounded warriors – are also in the labor force.10 Additionally, the number of aging adults who need care will only continue to increase. By 2060, the number of people at or above retirement age in the United States is expected to double.11 America’s lack of paid family and medical leave has serious costs – for women’s workforce advancement and income, working people’s economic and retirement security, the health and well-being of children and older adults who need care, and business retention and recruitment. It also strains taxpayer-funded safety net programs and deprives the nation of new
tax revenue that would come from women’s improved wages and the greater productivity that would come from increases in women’s workforce participation. It is well past time to truly support working people and families with a strong national paid family and medical leave policy. We urge you to support strong, inclusive national paid family and medical leave legislation and reject inadequate proposals that would fail to meet the needs of the nation’s workforce, families or businesses – and that would do more harm than good.
See attached letter for a full list of signatories.