National Family Leave Insurance Act introduced in Congress

The Family Leave Insurance Act of 2009 would provide 12 weeks of paid benefits to workers who need time off to care for a new child, ill family member, service member returning from combat, or their own illness. The program covers all employees who have paid into the fund and worked for their current employer for 6 months.

Benefits are tiered, with 100% of weekly earnings up to $20,000, 75% up to $30,000, 55% up to $60,000, 45% up to $97,000, 40% above $97,000. (Employees may use other leave to supplement.) Financing is shared between employers, employees, and federal government. Employees pay 0.2% of wages ($7 per month at median income). Employers with 20+ employees pay 0.2% of payroll; employers with fewer than 20 employees pay 0.1% of payroll.

States with materially equivalent or better paid leave programs may opt out, and companies with materially equivalent or better benefits can opt out and self-insure. The Department of Labor will contract with states to administer the program, and contract with the Social Security Commissioner in states that choose not to administer.

Healthy Families Act means more workers can care for family and self

Maybe swine flu tipped the balance when people’s kids had to come to work due to closed schools. Or the cratering economy made more people fear job loss for taking a sick day. Or employers started noticing the very real costs of presenteeism. Regardless, it’s never been more apparent that every worker needs access to paid sick days, in order to care for themselves and their family.

The timing couldn’t be better for national legislation to address this matter –  and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have stepped up to the plate by introducing the Healthy Families Act (Senate Bill 1152, House Resolution 2460).

HFA would guarantee every worker the right to earn up to seven paid sick days per year, ensuring people would no longer have to choose between getting a paycheck and their recovery when they get sick or need to care for a sick family member.

The bill requires employers with 15 or more employees to let workers earn up to seven paid sick days per year, to be used to address an employee’s short-term medical needs, such as the flu, or those of his or her family. It includes pro-rated leave for part-time employees, and sick days can be used for an employee’s medical appointments, preventative or diagnostic treatment; and to care for a family member with comparable needs.

New prospects for family leave in 2009

We started the year with high hopes for funding and launching Washington State’s family and medical leave insurance this year. But legislators in Olympia are now fully occupied grappling with a massive budget shortfall.

Fortunately, prospects are looking up in the other Washington: President Obama has made helping individuals balance work and family responsibilities a top priority. Congress members are now crafting legislation to provide states with money to start family leave insurance programs along with other family-friendly legislation.

But progress in D.C. is by no means certain. Powerful lobbyists have successfully fought against expansion of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for years.

Will you email Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell and your Representative today, asking them to make paid family leave a priority in this Congress?

In times like these, families and businesses need the support of paid family leave more than ever. Babies are born, cancer strikes, and parents enter their final illness even in tough economic times.

Working with MomsRising.org, we’ve started an email you can send to your elected representatives in Washington D.C. Your own words will pack the most powerful message – be sure to encourage your leaders to support new federal funding for state paid family leave programs.
Building up family economic security is key to a strong recovery.

Please send your email today. Thank you for your support!

Update: Family leave hearing postponed

The first hearing on Washington’s family and medical leave bill has been postponed for the time being — but we still need your help!

Please send us your story about why family leave matters to you. Your words will be a invaluable resource for talking with legislators, the media and others as we move forward. We’ll keep you posted on further developments with the hearing.

Thanks!

First hearing for family leave on Tuesday!

The first committee hearing on paid family and medical leave is next week!

Come down to Olympia next Tuesday morning to watch the action unfold, or watch the hearing live on TVW. Check your local listings, or visit: http://www.tvw.org/.

A full house will tell legislators how important this program is to our families!

When: Tuesday, February 10th, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Where: House Hearing Rm B, John L. O’Brien Building, Olympia, WA

Parking is very limited, so arrive early and carpool if you can.

Directions: http://www.ga.wa.gov/visitor/direction.htm
Capitol Map: http://www.ga.wa.gov/images/campus-map.pdf

Hope to see you there!

Family and medical leave insurance bill introduced in Washington Senate

The Washington State Senate now has family and medical leave legislation of its own to consider in the upcoming legislative session. The bill is similar – but not identical – to a House measure introduced earlier this week.

Senate Bill 5679 is sponsored by: Senators Keiser, Kohl-Welles, McDermott, Murray, Pridemore, Kauffman, Hatfield, Franklin, McAuliffe, Kline, and Oemig.

Washington Family and Medical Leave Insurance bill has new friends

Thanks in part to thousands of emails from Coalition member organizations, today family and medical leave insurance (HB 1609) has many more friends in the Washington House of Representatives than it did last Friday.

When first submitted, the bill had 6 sponsors – not a bad start. And by the end of Monday, nine more representatives had signed on as cosponsors, bringing the total number of sponsors to 15: Representatives Dickerson, Conway, Pettigrew, Williams, Green, Ormsby, Kagi, Dunshee, Appleton, Van De Wege, Upthegrove, Darneille, Simpson, Hasegawa, and Nelson.

If passed, the new legislation will expand paid family leave coverage to include care of a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, or parent; or the worker’s own serious health condition. Financing would be provided through an employee-paid payroll premium of between 2 and 3 cents per hour – about 80 cents a week for full-time workers.

A big shout-out to all of the Coalition members who got in touch with legislators in their home districts. MomsRising alone sent over 2700 emails over the past weekend. Which just goes to show that when working families make their voices heard, our leaders will listen.

Let’s keep up the fight!

(Crossposted at http://www.washingtonpolicywatch.org)