Congress Should Prioritize Paid Family Leave
By Joshua Parkhurst
The United States is the only western nation that does not ensure that workers receive paid family leave to deal with a family illness, a newborn child, or other family health matters. The Family and Medical Leave Act has given workers a modicum of protection from losing their job if they need to take such leave. The Family Medical Leave Act, however, provides only 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Many workers who need to take such leave do not do so because they cannot afford to go without income during their leave period. As the past year has demonstrated, caregiving responsibilities disproportionately fall on women and women of color leaving many to choose between their jobs and loved ones.
President Biden’s recently introduced American Families Plan is a big step in the right direction. The plan aims create a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program paying workers up to $4,000 a month. Under that cap, it would replace a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages, rising to 80 percent for the lowest-wage workers.
It is imperative that Congress prioritize paid family leave as it takes up consideration of President Biden’s proposal. The plan will be the subject of much debate and discussion over the next few months. We understand that members of Congress will have competing concerns about the total cost of any plan, and the numerous important measures relating to education, child tax credits, climate change, and several other proposals.
We support a robust American Families Plan that addresses all of these vital concerns. Please call your elected representatives and ask that they place a high priority on expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to include paid family leave.