The words “paid family leave” made it into the Trump administration’s 2018 spending plan. This may seem like a step in the right direction, but 1,000 Days sees this for what it is: a second-rate policy proposal that does not meet the needs of America’s hardworking families.
The Trump plan would allow states to establish programs that provide six weeks of paid leave to new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents. For starters, six weeks of leave does not come close to meeting families’ care-giving needs. 1,000 Days supports a minimum of 12 weeks of paid leave for working parents upon the birth or adoption of a child. Furthermore, the President’s plan for paid leave is flawed in its proposed implementation. Built upon state unemployment insurance programs—the majority of which are underfunded and pay an average of just 46% of employee pay—it’s likely that America’s workers will receive just a fraction of their paycheck while on leave. Evidence from existing paid leave programs in states like California shows that when the wage replacement is too low, many workers—particularly low-wage workers, the vast majority of whom are women—cannot afford to take advantage of family leave. Given that states would have wide latitude to design the program the way they want, we don’t know what this program would look like, who would get which benefits and how much.
Details like this matter. And America’s families deserve better.
And while the inclusion of paid leave in the President’s budget is on the one hand a testament to the growing public demand for paid family and medical leave, it’s important to realize that it comes at the expense of health, nutrition and safety net programs that many families with young children rely on.
The time is now for Congress to act to support a well-designed and comprehensive paid leave program that truly benefits families. Earlier this year, Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the FAMILY Act to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to all workers, regardless of the size of their employer, their gender, their marital status, or need for paid time off. Congress should dismiss the President’s paid leave proposal and get to work on passing common-sense legislation like the FAMILY Act to enable working families in the U.S. the opportunity to give their children the strongest start to life.