6 Weeks Paid Family Leave in 2018 Federal Budget Proposal!

May 25th, 2017

President Donald Trump has proposed that employees be granted 6 weeks paid family leave for the birth of a child (each for mothers and fathers!) or the adoption of a child. Under the proposed plan, states would be required to provide leave payments through existing unemployment insurance programs or would have to identify cuts or tax hikes, as needed, to cover the costs.

Now as most of you know, paid family leave is something that I have advocated for since the beginning of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond in 2009. Currently the United States is one of 4 nations that doesn’t offer paid leave; Lesotho, Swaziland and Papau New Guinea are the other nations. Instead, we have the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which entitles workers to 12 weeks of unpaid leave with guarantee of their job in order to care for a new baby, ill family member or themselves if they’ve worked for their employer for a year. However, this particular law has a slew of loopholes, not the least of which is that if a company is small, i.e. less than 50 members, the employer doesn’t have to abide by FMLA and if an employee is absent too much, the employer can fire them.

Paid medical leave is long overdue, but given our current administration, I am guardedly optimistic. The Republican party has long been against any sort of government intervention as it pertains to family and social services and this current administration is doing all that it can to dismantle many of our social safety net programs. So while I am excited to see families may finally be able to spend time with their new children or to take time to address pressing health issues, I’m skeptical that it’s really going to happen.

What concerns me about this proposal is that it hasn’t been clearly thought out by the administration. It’s a great eye catcher and liberals like me get all pumped-until we actually take a hard look at the proposal. There is not clear cut way to fund this proposal or a way to enforce it. Making states fund paid family leave, how will that work? What will be the repercussions if states don’t fund paid leave?  Historically, when states have been given the latitude to “govern” as they see fit, what often happens is that laws don’t take effect. A perfect example of this has been the Affordable Care Act. States were given the ability to “govern” as they saw fit and many states filed lawsuits against the bill, failed to accept allotted funds (Texas!!), didn’t expand Medicaid, and many insurers simply pulled out of the marketplace all together leaving those (of us) in the system with very few (affordable) health insurance options. Leaving paid family leave up to the states will again result in states with a high degree of social consciousness to implement a programs, and the rest will just simply let the legislation sit on someone’s desk and gather dust while it is “discussed” in legislative committees. Sadly, in many cases, those needing the provision of the proposal won’t get what they need.

Now we know that paid leave can be done. Currently California, Rhode Island, Washington, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia have paid family leave programs. These states and municipalities have made the commitment to their constituents and have found the way to fund paid leave-even when the federal government said “No”. One would think that the federal government would have looked at these programs and crafted a national program, or even recommended that representatives from these states help other states get their programs up and running. No. Nope. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

So once again, there has been a grand declaration that supporters are hailing as progress, and presidential supporters are saying that the president has kept his campaign promise. Supporters are also giving credit for the legislation to First Daughter Ivanks Trump for encouraging her father to craft such a proposal. But those of us who have been advocating for this legislation for years know the devil is in the details. Without a clear mandate, without a clear means of implementation and without funding, this proposal simply isn’t going to happen. I most certainly hope that I am wrong because paid family leave is very much needed in this country. But until I see a concrete plan of how paid leave is going to work, how each state will develop and implement their individual programs, how states will be held accountable for developing and implementing the programs, how the programs will be funded and how accessible the programs will be to ALL citizens, I will be holding off on the victory champagne and streamers .

How do you feel about paid medical leave? Have you used FMLA? How did it work for you? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

References:

US Department of Labor

MomsRising.org

Healthcare.gov

 

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