A 12-Week Paid Family Leave Policy Has Started Moving in Congress

Photo: (Photo : ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Workers in America could soon be entitled to a 12-week paid family leave that will provide parents extra time with their spouses and kids, especially if they need to care for a sick family member.

As Congress has returned to work after the summer holidays, the Democrats have started piecing together the $3.5 trillion policy for American families. Thursday's session at the Ways and Means Committee highlighted paid family leave, a long-overdue benefit as the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world without such a mandate.

President Joe Biden promised during the election campaign that he would deliver this benefit to parents with the government subsidizing at a cap of $4,000 a month. On the other hand, low-income earners may receive continued pay by as much as 80 percent of their wages.

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"This is our historic opportunity to support working families and ensure our economy is stronger, more inclusive, and more resilient for generations to come," Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal said.

What Covers Paid Family Leave?

Details of the policy dubbed the Build Back Better Act is still under draft, but any worker who has been employed, either part-time or full-time, from six months onwards could be entitled to the benefit if passed as a law. The Democrats are hoping that the legislation will be fast-tracked in Congress to be implemented by June 2023.

It should bear noting that 25 percent of private companies in the U.S. offer similar policies while states like California, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia have their laws providing this benefit. Most of these were implemented because of COVID-19.

The state laws and private company benefits will not be affected by federal law. If anything, more employers in the U.S. could use paid family leave as a tool for hiring and retaining employees.

According to think tank groups, women could benefit more from this policy as they will continue to earn while nursing their children or family members back to health. Research from California also showed that more moms have optioned to remain employed because the benefit existed. This has been good news for businesses that rely on the labor workforce.

Enabling Dependency

Republicans in Congress, however, warned that such a policy could drive increased dependency on government welfare. They frowned on the estimated budget of $3.5 trillion, describing the cost as a "spending orgy."

Some Democrats are also opposed to the legislation. Rep. Stephanie Murphy said that she would not support the proposal unless the final package would be detailed and laid out. Murphy also said that it should include how much money will be spent and how the government will raise this money to sustain the promise.

Sen. Joe Manchin also said that they might need to pause on the deliberations due to the scale of the package. Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave her fellow Democrats until the end of September to pass the legislation.

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