Congress is exploring proposals for providing workers with paid parental leave law, which is something President Trump advocated in his most recent State of the Union address.
The President’s plan, outlined in his 2020 budget proposal, calls for six weeks of paid leave for new parents to recover from childbirth and bond with a new child, including an adopted child. States would develop their own paid leave plans within the framework of existing unemployment insurance programs. Critics claim the President’s proposal is short on details, and an empty attempt to capitalize on a popular idea without really making it clear how it would work.
Paid parental leave is not a new idea, and it already exists, in one form or another, in many countries. Six states and the District of Columbia already have paid parental leave, and other states are considering it. Now there are now signs of possible bipartisan support for a federal law, provided the parties can agree on the details.
On March 12, 2019, Republican Senators introduced a GOP proposal. The Child Rearing and Development Leave Empowerment (CRADLE) Act would allow both natural and adoptive parents to receive one, two, or three months of paid leave benefits in exchange for postponing the activation of their Social Security retirement benefits for two, four, or six months. So, retirement benefits would be postponed by two months for every one month of paid family leave. The amount of the benefit would be calculated using the existing Social Security disability formula. Similar legislation was introduced in 2018, but it was met with opposition, from groups on the right and left, over using Social Security as a funding mechanism.
An alternative being proposed by Democrats is a new version of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. It is a proposal for paid family and medical leave, and it has been introduced repeatedly, without passage, since 2013. The FAMILY Act would create a national insurance fund, paid for by employers and employees, which would be used to provide up to twelve weeks of paid family or medical leave. Not only is the funding method different from the CRADLE Act, the FAMILY Act would provide paid leave for reasons other than the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. Proponents of the FAMILY Act contend that most people who need a paid leave of absence need it for medical or caretaking reasons, rather than because they are new parents.
This is a hot issue, so stayed tuned for developments.