February 09, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the 28th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) being enacted into law, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) joined a bicameral group to introduce the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act 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 when serious medical issues arise.
“No family should ever have to choose between their health and their paycheck,” said Senator King. “As the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate communities around our nation, we need to enable workers to make the right decision for their health and that of their colleagues. We can’t have someone with worrisome, legitimate symptoms feeling compelled to go to the office, or not have the ability to care for a loved one in medical need – and in doing so risking spread of COVID or any contagious ailment. This legislation will supply peace-of-mind to working families while ensuring that they can keep their jobs, be there for their family members, and support our nation’s economic recovery.”
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, but also the need for a national paid leave program extends far beyond the pandemic—it is a critical tool for long-term economic recovery. The 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. Under the legislation, the wage replacement will be funded by a 0.2 percent social insurance premium on wages that an employer pays and 0.2 percent on wages that an employee receives.
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.
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, AFL, 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.
Senator King has been outspoken in his support for the Family and Medical Leave Act, and has worked to build on its legacy to support paid family and medical leave legislation. He applauded the inclusion of paid parental leave for federal workers in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senator King is also an original sponsor of the Strong Families Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would create a five-year, 25 percent tax credit for employers who voluntarily offer up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to employees. A version of the Strong Families Act was enacted into law in December 2017 as part of the tax bill, and recently was extended through 2025.