President Joe Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan includes a provision for universal paid family and medical leave for Americans. However, Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has proposed an even more extensive package: the Building an Economy for Families Act, which would make permanent expansions to tax credits for child care and provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, CNBC reports.
If it follows the tenets of other paid leave programs across the U.S., as well as the federal Family Medical Leave Act signed by Barack Obama during his presidency, the act would provide leave to new parents, including new adoptive or foster parents, within the first 12 months of a child’s life, and to workers caring for older adults or other family members.
MassLive.com reports that the paid family and medical leave could total as much as two-thirds of a worker’s weekly wage. It would come with job protection provided by FMLA. It is not specified whether the bill would override paid leave insurance in states that already have statutory policies; presumably, the better benefits would prevail.
Massachusetts introduced one of the most robust paid family and medical leave policies in the U.S. this year, offering employees paid family leave benefits to care for a new infant, adopted, or foster child or for family members if a spouse is deployed, according to insurance wholesaler the D.B.L. Center Ltd., which specializes in statutory benefits across the Northeast. As of July 2021, Massachusetts PFML will also pay for leave to care for family members with serious health conditions; right now it does so if that family member is a covered member of the military services.
The passing of a federal PFML act would let workers in states with statutory paid leave programs take home more of their pay. Currently, states with PFL or PFML benefits, which include New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California, deduct premiums from workers’ pre-tax pay. It appears that the plan proposed by Neal would be paid for directly by the federal government through taxes and not deducted from employees’ payroll.
The plan would provide workers across the U.S. with options to bond with their children or care for sick family members while maintaining some level of income. The majority of states do not have paid family and/or medical leave coverage right now.
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